Eastern equine encephalitis virus, which kills about half of the people it infects, uses a newly identified mechanism to “hijack” cells of its hosts in order to suppress an immune response.
“Anytime you understand how a virus causes a disease, you can find ways to interrupt that process,” says senior author William Klimstra, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research. “And this discovery is particularly exciting because it is the first time that anyone has shown a virus using this particular strategy to evade its host’s immune system and exacerbate disease progression.”
The discovery, which is published in the journal Nature, could aid in the development of vaccines and treatments for eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), a rare but deadly disease that is found primarily in the Atlantic and Gulf States. It also may be useful in efforts to inhibit other diseases, such as West Nile virus, dengue, rhinovirus, and SARS.
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