SEP 23, 2020 1:24 PM PDT

Poxvirus Made Harmless After Removing One Gene

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Poxviruses are deadly viruses that are known to infect both animals and humans. Cowpox and monkeypox can both spread from cows and monkeys to people, in whom they cause swollen lymph nodes, fever, skin lesions, and sometimes death. New research has shown that poxviruses can be rendered harmless by removing a single gene. The findings have been reported in Science Advances.

At 500X, a photomicrograph of a rabbit skin tissue specimen affected by cowpox. / Credit: CDC

Viruses usually take over a host cell, using it to copy the viral genome so they can be released from that infected cell and go on to infect others. The human immune system can also recognize infected cells or the viral particles themselves, and direct an immune response against them. Poxviruses, however, are a little different. They have large genomes made of DNA (unlike viruses with RNA genomes), and they replicate in the cytosol of the cell but can remain there undetected somehow.

In this study, the researchers used a model of the human smallpox virus, called ectromelia virus (ECTV), which causes mousepox. It spreads through the mouse lymphatic system and moves on to vital organs where it replicates, causing the mouse to die quickly.

The researchers found that a gene, viral Schlafen (vSLFN) stops the cell from responding to the virus, enabling the infection to evade the immune system. When the gene was deactivated, the cell responded to it, and triggered a potent immune response. This response was enough to protect animals against a viral dose that was one million times higher than the level that would typically be lethal. Animals that were exposed to a modified virus without vSLFN wer protected from infection.

"Viruses, although minuscule, are very complex agents with very sophisticated strategies contained in their genetic material. But it is also this same genetic material that makes them vulnerable to cell recognition. The removal of vSLFN gene protected animal against mousepox, and we believe that that we may see the same results for other poxviruses," explained Dr. Carlos Maluquer de Motes, a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Virology at the University of Surrey.

This work may help improve vaccine efficacy and safety, and may provide new insights into how we combat infection.

"Our findings reveal the importance of activating the molecules responsible for the detection of the genetic material of microbes in the fight against viruses. In addition, they also suggest that mimicking the action of vSLFN may be a valid strategy to prevent auto-inflammatory and autoimmune diseases that are caused when the genetic material of cells is sensed by the immune system, promoting a reaction."

"Viral inhibition of DNA sensing prevents the induction of the type I IFN response and complements another viral mechanism to sequester type I IFN through the secretion of soluble IFN decoy receptors. This highlights the importance of the type I IFN response in the control of immunity," added Dr. Antonio Alcami of the Spanish National Research Council.

Sources: Phys.org via University of Surrey, Science Advances

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 11, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Could Mucus-Based Drugs Replace Antibiotics?
JUL 11, 2021
Could Mucus-Based Drugs Replace Antibiotics?
Researchers from the Copenhagen Center for Glycomics in Denmark have developed a way to produce healthy mucus artificial ...
JUL 21, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A diet rich in phytoestrogens can help combat inflammation in multiple sclerosis.
JUL 21, 2021
A diet rich in phytoestrogens can help combat inflammation in multiple sclerosis.
Close to one million people in the United States are living with multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a chronic, neuroinflamma ...
AUG 02, 2021
Microbiology
The Unique Microbiomes of Long-Lived People
AUG 02, 2021
The Unique Microbiomes of Long-Lived People
What's the secret of people that live a long life? The answer may be complex but for some, it could include the microbio ...
AUG 10, 2021
Microbiology
The CDC Investigates Several Cases of a Rare Tropical Disease
AUG 10, 2021
The CDC Investigates Several Cases of a Rare Tropical Disease
The bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei is a pathogen that can live in water and soil, usually in tropical parts of nort ...
AUG 23, 2021
Technology
New Sensor Helps Determine How Bacteria Will Respond to Antibiotics
AUG 23, 2021
New Sensor Helps Determine How Bacteria Will Respond to Antibiotics
Researchers at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan have developed a new microwave sensor that can quickly gather ...
SEP 14, 2021
Health & Medicine
Graphene-Oxide Based Nanotechnology and Immunology-An Exciting Partnership
SEP 14, 2021
Graphene-Oxide Based Nanotechnology and Immunology-An Exciting Partnership
As treatments and infection control practices surrounding COVID-19 continue to evolve, nanotechnological solutions are b ...
Loading Comments...