Even 30 years after the discovery of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in humans there is still no vaccine available. Reasons for this include the high mutation rate of HCV, which allows the virus to escape immune recognition and the absence of an immunocompetent animal model for vaccine development. Phylogenetically distinct hepaciviruses (genus Hepacivirus, family Flaviviridae) have been isolated from diverse species, each with a narrow host range: the equine hepacivirus (EqHV) is the closest known relative of HCV.
Our recent highlights:
Comparitive deep sequence analysis of hepacivirus populations in horses and humans. Evolutionary patterns were similar in acutely and chronically infected individuals in both hosts. However, EqHV was less diverse. Especially when it comes to the HVR1 which seems to be missing in EqHV and maybe also other hepacivirses!
Cross-species infection with EqHV in donkeys. Our findings indicate that donkeys are a natural host of EqHV, due to the almost identical infection kinetics. The different immune responses do however suggest different mechanisms in reacting to hepaciviral infections.
Analysis of the minimal dose required for productive EqHV infection in vivo. Moreover, we anaylzed transcriptimic responses towards infection. Here we were able to show immune pattern which correlated with clearance or persistence.