Series of Shots Could Cure Hepatitis B

HBV treatment for children infected by their mothers could be administered through a series of shots.

A new study suggests that a chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection could be cleared with a series of shots that remove microphages.

Many adults with HBV will develop protective immunity, but children who become infected from their mothers are unable to remove the virus from their system. These children will have to live with HBV for the rest of their lives, according to a study published by Immunity.

Hepatic macrophages are liver immune cells that eliminate foreign substances and toxins. Researchers said that they could be a target of future HBV treatment.

"Maternal viral antigens teach the offspring's hepatic macrophages to suppress foot soldier white blood cells called CTLs," said senior study author James Ou, PhD. "Therefore, when babies are exposed to the virus, the baby's 'garbage disposal units' will suppress its own immune system from fighting off the infection. We were able to deplete macrophages in a mouse model, activate CTLs and clear the virus."

Over 28 weeks, researchers introduced HBV-inducing DNA into mice livers to produce HBV. The control group had mothers without HBV and the experimental group had mothers with HBV.

Measurements taken throughout the experiment found that the experimental group’s hepatic microphages turned against their CTLs.

In order to remove macrophages that stop the immune system from getting rid of HBV infection, researchers injected the experimental group with a drug. It was injected 2 days before and once every 5 days after HBV DNA was administered for a total of 4 times.

The drug was able to remove the macrophages and restore normal CTL white blood cell activity. Researchers noted that HBV was cleared in about 4 weeks.

"This study opens doors. In the future, clinical treatment for chronic HBV infection may last merely one month rather than a lifetime,” Dr Ou concluded.