Author(s): CN Wose Kinge, NH Bhoola and A. Kramvis

Source: Viruses 2020, 12(3), 353

Abstract: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infects the liver resulting in end stage liver disease, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite an effective vaccine, HBV poses a serious health problem globally, accounting for 257 million chronic carriers. Unique features of HBV, including its narrow virus–host range and its hepatocyte tropism, have led to major challenges in the development of suitable in vivo and in vitro model systems to recapitulate the HBV replication cycle and to test various antiviral strategies. Moreover, HBV is classified into at least nine genotypes and 35 sub-genotypes with distinct geographical distributions and prevalence, which have different natural histories of infection, clinical manifestation, and response to current antiviral agents. Here, we review various in vitro systems used to study the molecular biology of the different (sub)genotypes of HBV and their response to antiviral agents, and we discuss their strengths and limitations. Despite the advances made, no system is ideal for pan-genotypic HBV research or drug development and therefore further improvement is required. It is necessary to establish a centralized repository of HBV-related generated materials, which are readily accessible to HBV researchers, with international collaboration toward advancement and development of in vitro model systems for testing new HBV antivirals to ensure their pan-genotypic and/or customized activity.

Keywords: In vitro systems; transfection; human induced pluripotent stem cells; liver organoids