What happens during hepatitis C infections?
After being infected with the hepatitis C virus, it travels through the blood via B lymphocytes. They reach the liver, which is the primary site of infection. Resolution of the infection only happens when cytotoxic T lymphocytes develop a response specific to this particular strand of hepatitis C virus.
As the viral infection continues, the liver undergoes severe inflammation. When this inflammation is sustained for a long time, it causes fibrosis, which is the formation of scar tissue in the organ, replacing healthy tissue. During ongoing infection with hepatitis C, a very high proportion of hepatocytes will ultimately be infected with the virus. At least 50% of these cells will be affected in case of chronic disease.
Viral infection depends on the genetic machinery of the hepatitis C virus. One of the most important proteins is the core protein. It modulates cell cycle regulation in hepatocytes and helps the hepatitis C virus use the cell’s metabolism to its advantage. There is also an RNA polymerase and other essential proteins for the propagation of the virus.