1 The Center for Vaccines and Immunity, The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children's, Columbus, Ohio 43205, USA.
2 Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43004, USA.
Approximately 70% of acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections become chronic, indicating that the virus is exceptionally well adapted to persist in humans with otherwise normal immune function. Robust, lifelong replication of this small RNA virus does not require a generalized failure of immunity. HCV effectively subverts innate and adaptive host defenses while leaving immunity against other viruses intact. Here, the role of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses in control of HCV infection and their failure to prevent virus persistence in most individuals are reviewed. Two issues of practical importance remain priorities in an era of highly effective antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C. First, the characteristics of successful T-cell responses that promote resolution of HCV infection are considered, as they will underpin development of vaccines that prevent HCV persistence. Second, defects in T-cell immunity that facilitate HCV persistence and whether they are reversed after antiviral cure to provide protection from reinfection are also addressed.