Who knew frozen mice could be so useful? Mouse viruses discovered in a bank of frozen rodents could pave the way for future progress in hepatitis research, enabling scientists to study human disease and vaccines in the ultimate lab animal. In mBio this week, authors from Colombia University and elsewhere describe their search for viruses related to the human hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human pegiviruses (HPgV) in freezer stocks of wild mice. The discovery of several new species of hepaciviruses and pegiviruses that are closely related to human viruses suggests they might be used to study these diseases and potential vaccines in mice, without the need for human volunteers.
About 2% of the population is infected with the hepatitis C virus and 5% is infected with human pegiviruses, but it's been difficult to study new drugs or develop vaccines against these infections because the human strains do not infect animals that can be studied in the lab. Lead author Amit Kapoor of Columbia University says it surprised him to find similar viruses in mice.
"People have been waiting for decades to find something like this. It was shocking for me to see that the viruses are there and there are so many of them," said Kapoor.
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