A study done by researches from the University College London indicates that chronically infected patients with Hepatitis B Virus may be able to successfully fight the virus as the cells that control the disease get forced to self-destruct.

The researchers found that HBV virus triggers a group of cells, called T cells, to 'commit suicide' in patients who are chronically infected. They hope that these findings will have future implications for developing therapies or vaccines that boost the body's ability to manage this infection.

They screened over 5,000 genes in T cells from recovered and chronically infected Hepatitis B patients by using microarray gene chips and found that T cells, critical players of the immune system required for control of HBV, were triggered to 'commit suicide' instead of successfully reacting to the virus. These T cells were triggered to commit suicide by one of the cells' own death-inducing proteins, called 'Bim' but the exact mechanism driving this outcome hasn’t been found yet.

This discovery can act as an important factor in determining why these patients' immune systems cannot fight the infection. Additionally, the researchers are hoping to develop safe ways of blocking the suicidal tendency of the T cells so their survival could be prolonged and Hepatitis B better controlled.

Today, Hepatitis B virus is one of the most common viruses in the world with over 350 million people infected. Hepatitis B virus infection threatens to turn into liver cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.