More than 400 million people worldwide are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Viral hepatitis is the major cause for liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma, and the main indication for liver transplantation. The available anti-viral drugs are only partly effective, toxic and expensive, and more efficient therapies are urgently needed. Innate and adaptive immune responses play an important role in viral clearance and disease pathogenesis. However, adaptive immunity to both HBV and HCV are almost completely absent in chronically infected patients. In addition, detailed studies on patients co-infected with HIV are being performed.
The research lines of the laboratory of dr. André Boonstra focus on the immune response towards human chronic viruses, including HBV, HCV, HEV and HIV. The research has a strong translational character and aims to provide basic and applied knowledge to better understand the immune parameters determining viral persistence, improve current anti-viral therapies and develop novel therapeutic strategies to combat chronic viral infections.
In this, various longitudinal studies focused on improvement of therapy, and participation in a number of multi-center Phase I/II clinical trials are being performed in close collaboration with clinicians of the department of Hepatology (prof.dr. Rob de Man and dr. Rob de Knegt) and the department of Infectious Diseases (prof.dr. Annelies Verbon en dr. Bart Rijnders).
Specific projects include: