HIV and HBV are both recognized as major global health concerns. HIV infects 37 million people worldwide, while HBV infects 257 million. HIV/HBV co-infection is common due to highly similar routes of transmission, with an estimated 10% of HIV-infected individuals also infected with HBV. In addition to their similar sexual and percutaneous routes of transmission, HIV and HBV also share the ability to drive chronic infection, liver dysfunction, liver fibrosis, and immune exhaustion. For these reasons, co-infection with HIV and HBV is associated with higher probabilities of health complications, particularly liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HIV infected patients are up to 6-times more likely to progress to chronic HBV infection and have higher levels of HBV viremia. The mechanisms contributing to the increased liver dysfunction and fibrosis seen in HIV/HBV co-infected individuals are not currently understood. Multiple hypotheses have been proposed, but the ability to study these hypotheses is hindered by lack of a robust HBV infection model. Thus, there remains an urgent need to develop novel, physiologically relevant models of HIV/HBV co-infection to study the interaction between these viruses. Here, we present the first rhesus macaque model of HBV infection and propose an urgently needed, physiologically relevant HIV/HBV co-infection animal model. We believe that our new rhesus macaque model of HBV infection will be on the forefront of HBV research, and is becoming available at a crucial time where efforts are now turning towards cure strategies for both HIV and HBV. Given the urgent need for tractable animal models of HIV/HBV co-infection, we believe the research proposed herein to be of the highest significance.
HIV/HBV co-infection is common due to highly similar routes of transmission. HIV/HBV co-infected patients are at higher risk for liver disease than HBV mono-infected patients. Here, we describe the first rhesus macaque model of HBV infection, setting the stage for a highly needed HIV/HBV co-infection primate model.