Researchers May Have Found an Achilles Heel for Hepatitis B

3D illustration of hepatitis B virions (Kateryna Kon)

Tiny, dangerous, and easily transmitted, hepatitis B virus (HBV) chronically affects about 296 million people and kills about 1 million every year. This stealthy virus invades the liver and remains largely asymptomatic until it culminates in cirrhosis or cancer. Most treatments try to inhibit the virus’s polymerase (pol) protein. But those treatments are lifelong and not curative. Now researchers from the lab of Rockefeller’s Charles M. Rice, PhD, have revealed never-before-seen mechanisms that may lead to new therapeutic approaches for HBV. They published the results in Cell on May 8, 2024. The article is titled “Deep Mutational Scanning of Hepatitis B Virus Reveals a Mechanism for Cis-Preferential Reverse Transcription.”

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