Projects Translational Virology

Influence of immunomodulatory drugs on the multiplication of the hepatitis E virus

Analysis of the influence of the drug ibrutinib (BTK inhibitor) on the hepatitis E virus in a patient and in cell culture.

The hepatitis E virus typically has a self-limiting course and only causes a significant disease in approx. 1-2% of the cases. However, individuals who are immunosuppressed (e.g. people after organ transplantation) run at risk of developing a permanent (chronic) infection with the consecutive risk of deteriorating liver function or even liver failure. In recent years, there have been increasing numbers of new therapeutic approaches in the clinic that modify different parts of the immune system. However, the influence of these newer drugs on the hepatitis E virus is not known. However, knowledge about possible interactions is important in order to estimate for example the risk of a chronic or a fulminant disease under treatment. 

Inactivation of Hepatitis E

Immunofluorescence from HEV-infected hepatoma cells. The capsid protein of the virus is stained in green.

The efficient cell culture system for HEV established at TWINCORE enables the analysis of different inactivation methods of the virus. We are currently using this to analyze the inactivation of the virus by commercially available hand disinfectants. The knowledge gained from this will significantly influence the hygienic measures that are taken in the event of an infection.

Extrahepatic replication of the hepatitis E virus

HEV infection is associated with extrahepatic manifestations such as neurological diseases or deterioration of kidney function in some people. In addition, infections with genotype 1 and 2 (prevalent, especially in Africa) can result in severe courses during pregnancy. So far it is unclear whether these extrahepatic manifestations are caused by a direct infection of the respective organ system (neurons, placenta cells, kidney cells) or indirectly. We therefore use our virus generated in cell culture to test a possible infection of different human cells from different organ systems. These studies will reveal whether direct infection of these organs with the virus is possible and have implications for the disease-monitoring of patients suffering from HEV.