Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection remains a worldwide public health issue despite direct-acting antivirals. A substantial proportion of infected individuals (15%–45%) spontaneously clear repeated HCV infections with genetically different viruses by generating broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). However, translating this response into an effective vaccine strategy has been unsuccessful. In this issue of the JCI, Frumento and colleagues report on their study of bNAb evolution longitudinally in convalescent individuals with repeated infections. Using pseudotyped viruses, well-characterized monoclonal antibodies, and complex modeling, the authors show that multiple exposures to antigenically related, antibody-sensitive viral envelope proteins induced potent bNAbs. This work provides valuable insight into the best strategies for developing HCV vaccines in the future that may successfully reproduce the immunity induced during natural exposures.
Bharath K. Sreekumar, Taha Y. Taha, Melanie Ott