This review is an attempt to characterize the host in the earliest events of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection before the on-set of adaptive immune response. Host meets the replicating HCV with innate immune response in the form of proinflammatory cytokine production, activation of natural killer (NK), NKT and dendritic cells. The potency of innate response is shaped by a wide panel of genetically predetermined constants and acquired variables. Higher rates of HCV clearance associate with white ethnicity and certain HLA haplotypes. Lower clearance rates correlate with genetic immune deficiencies / disorders. Recent findings link infection outcome with variation in the genes for the low-density lipoprotein and complement type 1 receptors. Important though insufficiently characterized is the role of polymorphisms in the genes responsible for induction of antiviral immunity. The outcome of HCV entry and of subsequent acute infection (if that occurs) is pre-determined by the immune competence of the host at the moment of infection. Higher rate of HCV clearance is observed for pediatric patients and young adults. Bad prognostic markers would be post-transplantation immune suppression, transfusion-related immune modulation, alcohol-induced immune imbalance and intoxication. Among host variables is the immune modulation induced by parasitic and viral co-infections. Some of the variables are transient and hard to define in retrospective. These host characteristics set up the potency, kinetics, and profile (Th1 / Th2) of subsequent adaptive immune response. Better understanding of the host correlates of viral clearance would be a step towards prophylaxis of infection and an efficient anti-HCV vaccine.
Keywords: human hepatitis c virus, correlates of viral clearance, innate immunity, host factors
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