Published online Sep 28, 2007. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i36.4858
Revised: July 2, 2007
Accepted: July 9, 2007
Published online: September 28, 2007
The pathogenesis and outcome of viral infections are significantly influenced by the host immune response. The immune system is able to eliminate many viruses in the acute phase of infection. However, some viruses, like hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV), can evade the host immune responses and establish a persistent infection. HCV and HBV persistence is caused by various mechanisms, like subversion of innate immune responses by viral factors, the emergence of T cell escape mutations, or T cell dysfunction and suppression. Recently, it has become evident that regulatory T cells may contribute to the pathogenesis and outcome of viral infections by suppressing antiviral immune responses. Indeed, the control of HCV and HBV specific immune responses mediated by regulatory T cells may be one mechanism that favors viral persistence, but it may also prevent the host from overwhelming T cell activity and liver damage. This review will focus on the role of regulatory T cells in viral hepatitis.