The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a small, circular, double stranded DNA virus that causes self limited (acute) or prolonged (chronic) infection, with or without associated liver cell injury (hepatitis). Longstanding chronic hepatitis B carries a 200-fold or greater increased risk of development of hepatocellular carcinoma.1 Although much has been learned in recent years about the structure and organization of the HBV genome, its gene products and its replication strategy, the mechanisms responsible for viral clearance and persistence, hepatocellular injury and malignant transformation are not well understood. HBV is a member of the Hepadnavirus family which consists of several related hepatotropic DNA viruses that share many genetic and biological features (hepatitis B virus; woodchuck hepatitis virus; duck hepatitis B virus, ground squirrel hepatitis virus, and heron hepatitis virus). Because HBV does not infect cells in tissue culture and does not infect common laboratory animals, investigators have relied heavily on these animal models to explore the biological and pathogenetic properties of HBV and to map and manipulate the viral genome.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases