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Keywords:

  • animal model;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • acute hepatitis;
  • viral load;
  • chronic infection

Abstract

The kinetics of serum viral responses and acute liver injury were studied during neonatal woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) infection in relation to the chronic or resolved outcome. The mean concentrations of serum WHV DNA and surface antigen were significantly higher by week 10 post infection in chronic infections compared to resolving infections, and diverged even further by the time of peak viral load development in serum (week 12). After week 12, these viral markers were detected less frequently with time and at lower concentrations in the resolved outcome. In both outcomes, mean serum activities of hepatic enzymes became increased significantly above baseline by weeks 10–12, peaked at week 14, and normalized by weeks 20–22, thus indicating transient acute liver injury. The increasing liver injury responses were comparable between outcomes at week 12, when serum viral load was markedly higher in the developing chronic infections. This suggested a deficiency in early non-cytolytic control of infection in the chronic outcome. At week 14, liver injury was significantly greater in the resolved outcome and associated with higher mean Fas ligand (FasL) and perforin messenger RNAs (mRNAs) in liver compared to the chronic outcome. This indicated greater immune-mediated killing of infected hepatocytes during resolution. Thus, chronicity as an outcome of neonatal WHV infection develops relatively early during the acute phase of infection due to reduced immune-mediated clearance of infected hepatocytes by both cytolytic and non-cytolytic processes. J. Med. Virol. 72:406–415, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.