Researchers want to improve the prophylaxis against chronic viral hepatitis and develop therapies to cure it.© DZIF/scienceRELATIONS

Worldwide, approximately 325 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B (HBV) or C (HCV) viruses and 15 million people have hepatitis D and B co-infections. These infections often have an insidious course of disease that targets the liver cells leading to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. A preventive vaccine against HBV exists. However, once the disease is present, antiviral drugs can only curb viral replication but not stop it. Co-infections with HDV present an additional complication as they are responsible for a particularly rapid development of liver cirrhosis. Over the past few years, patients suffering from hepatitis C infections have been cured with novel virostatic agents (direct acting antivirals, DAA) that demonstrate high success rates and few side effects. However, no vaccine against the virus exists. An ongoing major challenge in hepatitis management is the individualised treatment of patients that are difficult to treat—also with regard to cost optimisation.

DZIF scientists aim to improve prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis, the ultimate goal being to find a cure.

Central Themes

    • Epidemiology of viral hepatitis in low-income countries
      A large epidemiological study on chronic HBV infection is being conducted in Burkina Faso. Based on this study data, specific measures against viral hepatitis could also be implemented in other low-income countries.

    • Identifying new target sites and developing new therapies
      Two joint projects are conducting research on cures for hepatitis B and D infections. Amongst others, the specific entry inhibitor myrcludex B is being developed and is already undergoing clinical testing.

    • Optimising hepatitis C treatment
      Scientists research the role of resistance to antiviral drugs as well as treatment strategies for particularly difficult-to-treat patients—for instance, for patients who have already developed advanced cirrhosis.

    • Hepatitis C prevention
      Development of vaccines against hepatitis C based on data on the body’s immune response in patients who had a spontaneous cure of hepatitis C infection.
    • Developing a network for clinical trials
      As a DZIF-wide platform, the infrastructure HepNet Study House provides support with establishing patient cohorts and conducting clinical trials on hepatitis. It enables closely meshed networking within the DZIF as well as in Germany and Europe.

    Working Groups

    • HepNet Study House
      Contact: Michael Manns, Hannover Medical School
    • Professorship "Clinical infectious diseases with special emphasis
      on viral Hepatitis"
      Contact: Markus Cornberg, Hannover Medical School

    • Primary human hepatocyte core facility
      Contact: Michael Bock, Hannover Medical School

    • Professorship "Translational Virology"
      Contact: Stephan Urban, Universität Heidelberg

    • Hepatitis Imaging Plattform
      Contact: Ralf Bartenschlager, Heidelberg University

    • Professorship “Immune Pathology of Viral Infection”
      Contact: Andreas Pichlmair, Technische Universität München

    • BSL3 Immune Monitoring and Cell Sorting
      Contact: Ulrike Protzer, Helmholtz Zentrum München and Technische Univerrsität München

    Participating Sites




    Interview with Michael Manns, TTU "Hepatitis" [in German]

    Michael P. Manns, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover

    Ulrike Protzer, Technische Universität München / Helmholtz Zentrum München
    Ralf Bartenschlager, Universität & Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg

    Project manager
    Petra Dörge