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Viral clearance during hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection has been thought to reflect the destruction of infected hepatocytes by CD8+ T lymphocytes. However, in this study, HBV DNA was shown to largely disappear from the liver and the blood of acutely infected chimpanzees long before the peak of T cell infiltration and most of the liver disease. These results demonstrate that noncytopathic antiviral mechanisms contribute to viral clearance during acute viral hepatitis by purging HBV replicative intermediates from the cytoplasm and covalently closed circular viral DNA from the nucleus of infected cells.
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