A study was carried out to determine some of the factors that might distinguish transient from chronic hepadnavirus infection. First, to better characterize chronic infection, Pekin ducks, congenitally infected with the duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV), were used to assess age-dependent variations in viremia, percentage of DHBV-infected hepatocytes, and average levels of DNA replication intermediates in the cytoplasm and of covalently closed circular DNA in the nuclei of infected hepatocytes. Levels of viremia and viral DNA were found to peak at about the time of hatching but persisted at relatively constant levels in chronically infected birds up to 2 years of age. The percentage of infected hepatocytes was also constant, with DHBV replication in virtually 100% of hepatocytes in all birds. Next, we found that adolescent ducks inoculated intravenously with a large dose of DHBV also developed massive infection of hepatocytes with an early but low-level viremia, followed by rapid development of a neutralizing antibody response. No obvious quantitative or qualitative differences bewtween transiently and chronically infected liver tissue were detected in the intracellular markers of viral replication examined. However, in the adolescent duck experiment, DHBV infection was rapidly cleared from the liver even when up to 80% of hepatocytes were initially infected. In all of these ducks, clearance of infection was accompanied by only a mild hepatitis, with no evidence that massive cell death contributed to the clearance. This finding suggested that mechanisms in addition to immune-mediated destruction of hepatocytes might make major contributions to clearance of infections, including physiological turnover of hepatocytes in the presence of a neutralizing antibody response and/or spontaneous loss of the capacity of hepatocytes to support virus replication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science