Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) are viruses that infect the liver, and in some cases can cause liver failure requiring a transplant for survival. The protein interferon, produced by animal cells when they are invaded by viruses, is released into the bloodstream or intercellular fluid to induce healthy cells to manufacture an enzyme that counters the infection. One class of interferons (alpha) is used to treat chronic infection with HBV and HCV. There is a vaccine available to prevent the spread of HBV but not HCV.
In the study, a new class of interferons, interferon lambda, was tested for its ability to inhibit HBV and HCV replication. Results showed 90% inhibition of HBV after twenty-four hours and 90-99% inhibition in HCV five days posttreatment.
"We have demonstrated here that replication of HBV and HCV is sensitive to the antiviral activities of interferon lambda," say the researchers. "These results suggest the possibility that interferon lambda may be therapeutically useful in the treatment of chronic HBV or HCV infection."
(M.D. Robek, B.S. Boyd, F.V. Chisari. 2005. Lambda interferon inhibits hepatitis B and C virus replication. Journal of Virology, 79. 6: 3851-3854.)