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Keywords:

  • anti-viral therapy;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • immunotherapy;
  • therapeutic vaccination;
  • woodchuck hepatitis virus;
  • woodchuck model

Summary.  Interferon-α and nucleoside analogues are available for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection but do not lead to a satisfactory result. New findings about the immunological control of HBV during acute infection suggest the pivotal role of T-cell mediated immune responses. Several preclinical and clinical trials were undertaken to explore the possibility of stimulating specific immune responses in chronically infected animals and patients by vaccination. However, vaccination with commercially available HBV vaccines in patients and immunization in woodchucks with core or surface proteins of woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) did not result in effective control of HBV and WHV infection, suggesting that new formulations of therapeutic vaccines are needed. Some new approaches combining antiviral treatments with nucleoside analogues, DNA vaccines and protein vaccines were tested in the woodchuck model. It could be shown that therapeutic vaccinations are able to stimulate specific B- and T-cell responses and to achieve transient suppression of viral replication. These results suggest the great potential of therapeutic vaccination in combination with antivirals to reach an effective and sustained control of HBV infection.