Animal models for the study of HBV infection and the evaluation of new anti-HBV strategies


Correspondence: Professor Fabien Zoulim INSERM, Unit 271, Institut Universitaire de France, 151 Cours Albert Thomas, 69003 Lyon, France. Email:


Backgroud : Our aim was to evaluate the anti-HBV activity of a novel L-nucleoside analog, 2′,3′-dideoxy-2′,3′-didehydro-β-L-5-fluorocytidine (β-L-Fd4C), in study models of HBV infection.

Method : Its mechanism of action was evaluated on the in vitro expressed duck HBV (DHBV) reverse transcriptase and in primary hepatocyte cultures of duck and human origin. The capacity of antiviral therapy to clear viral infection was analyzed in vivo in the duck and woodchuck models.

Results : β-L-Fd4C-TP exhibited a more potent inhibitory effect on the RT activity of the DHBV polymerase than other cytidine analogs (lamivudine-TP, ddC-TP, β-L-FddC-TP). In primary duck hepatocyte cultures, β-L-Fd4C exhibited a long-lasting inhibitory effect on viral DNA synthesis but could not clear viral cccDNA. In vivo treatment with β-L-Fd4C in infected ducklings and woodchucks, induced a greater suppression of viremia and intrahepatic viral DNA synthesis than with lamivudine. However, covalently closed circular DNA persistence explained the relapse of viral replication after treatment withdrawal. Viral spread was strongly reduced in the case of early therapeutical intervention, but the number of infected cells did not decline when therapy was started during chronic infection. Liver histology analysis showed a decrease in the inflammatory activity of chronic hepatitis while no ultrastructural modification of liver cells was observed in electron microscopy studies. Furthermore, in human primary hepatocyte cultures, β-L-Fd4C induced a significant inhibition of HBV DNA synthesis.

Conclusion : β-L-Fd4C is a potent inhibitor of hepadnavirus RT and inhibits viral DNA synthesis in hepatocytes both in vitro and in vivo. These experimental studies allowed as to show that β-L-Fd4C is a promising anti-HBV agent. Combination therapy should be evaluated to eradicate viral infection.

© 2002 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd