Progress in the development of preventive and therapeutic vaccines for hepatitis C virus
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood borne disease estimated to chronically infect 3% of the worlds' population causing significant morbidity and mortality. Current medical therapy is curative in approximately 50% of patients. While recent treatment advances of genotype 1 infection using directly acting antiviral agents (DAAs) are encouraging, there is still a need to develop vaccine strategies capable of preventing infection. Moreover, vaccines may also be used in future in combination with DAAs enabling interferon-free treatment regimens. Viral and host specific factors contribute to viral evasion and present important impediments to vaccine development. Both, innate and adaptive immune responses are of major importance for the control of HCV infection. However, HCV has evolved ways of evading the host's immune response in order to establish persistent infection. For example, HCV inhibits intracellular interferon signalling pathways, impairs the activation of dendritic cells, CD8 + and CD4 + T cell responses, induces a state of T-cell exhaustion and selects escape variants with mutations CD8 + T cell epitopes. An effective vaccine will need to produce strong and broadly cross-reactive CD4 + , CD8 + T cell and neutralising antibody (NAb) responses to be successful in preventing or clearing HCV. Vaccines in clinical trials now include recombinant proteins, synthetic peptides, virosome based vaccines, tarmogens, modified vaccinia Ankara based vaccines, and DNA based vaccines. Several preclinical vaccine strategies are also under development and include recombinant adenoviral vaccines, virus like particles, and synthetic peptide vaccines. This paper will review the vaccines strategies employed, their success to date and future directions of vaccine design.