• antiviral therapy;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • hepatitis C virus;
  • immunosuppressants;
  • T cell-mediated immune mechanisms.


Clinical and experimental studies have shown that T cell-mediated immune mechanisms are involved in the pathogenesis of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus infection. Immunosuppressants may impair T cell function and thereby reduce immune-mediated hepatocytolysis and virus clearance. In addition, corticosteroid may activate the glucocorticoid responsive element in the HBV genome to enhance HBV replication and gene expression. These combined effects result in an increase of viraemia in association with a decrease of serum aminotransferase and hepatic necroinflammation. In acute infection, use of immunosuppressants will increase the incidence of chronic evolution. In chronic infection, withdrawal of immunosuppressants will be followed by a clinical flare due to a rebound of immune attack to hepatocytes with increased viral load. This may lead to a subsequent decrease of the viraemia. Therefore, short-term use of immunosuppressant before antiviral therapy may be beneficial in the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis. However, the clinical rebound may be extremely severe and lead to hepatitis failure; thus, the patients should be monitored closely upon tapering and after the withdrawal of immunosuppressants. Long-term use of immunosuppressants in patients with hepatitis virus infection is usually deleterious, particularly in patients after organ transplantation. These findings suggest that clinicians should be cautious in the use of immunosuppressants in patients with hepatitis virus infection.