The mechanisms which lead to chronical infection by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) are as yet unknown. With an animal model, the woodchuck (Marmota marmota), we are researching the cellular and humoral immune response in the acute and chronic infections with woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV). Under analysis is the characterisation of the cellular immune response in acute, self-limiting infections and the analysis of the defects of the immune response which lead to chronical infection.
How far host or viral factors such as the resistence against cytokines (e.g. IFNα, -γ) are responsible for chronicity shall also be examined. Therapeutic vaccines for the therapy of chronic viral infections shall be developed.
The projects shall be financed by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF HepNet) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The Institute of Virology is home to the National Reference Centre for Hepatitis C and conducts special examinations concerning questions in HCV diagnosis, molecular epidemiology, prevention, e.g. sequencing comparisons.
Within the framework of the Viral Hepatitide Network (Hep-Net) a sera and DNA databank containing well-characterised samples from patients inflicted by hepatitis B and C has been established at the Institute.