The bodys immune system cannot eliminate the hepatitis C virus without close cooperation from two types of white blood cells, according to a study reported in the October 24 issue of Science.
The white blood cells are known as CD4+ helper and CD8+ killer T lymphocytes, according to researchers at Columbus Childrens Research Institute (CCRI) in Columbus, OH.
The researchers found that a temporary depletion of the CD4+ T helper cells eliminated the protective immunity against a second infection of the hepatitis C virus. Without the CD4+T helper cells, the CD8+ T killer cells alone put up an ineffective defense.
Lead researcher Christopher Walker, who directs the institute, said about 70 percent of individuals exposed to hepatitis C become lifelong carriers of the virus, while the remaining individuals successfully contain the infection and appear to have long-lasting immunity against the virus.
Our finding that CD4+ T helper cells are essential for this protection move us one step closer to developing an effective vaccine for hepatitis C, said Walker.
Other sources: Columbus Children's Research Institute, Columbus Children's Hospital