Challenges to a Cure for HBV Infection
Current first-choice treatments for chronic hepatitis B are able to efficiently induce viral suppression in the majority of patients, but life-long therapy is needed to maintain infection under control due to their inability to eliminate the virus from infected hepatocytes. The residual viral replication and antigen production in most patients under treatment substantially contributes to the residual risk of hepatocarcinogenesis. New therapeutic approaches are needed to overcome hepatitis B virus persistence in the infected cells, or at least to control its transcriptional and replicative activity. In this review, the authors discuss the key points of the viral life cycle and host immune responses that need to be addressed to achieve a “functional cure,” or even a “complete cure,” allowing a finite duration of treatment and preventing virus reactivation and liver disease progression in a significantly higher number of patients than what is currently attained.