Blocking Viral Replication

A critical molecule involved in cell growth is found to be key to fighting viral infection

When most viruses enter the body, a system called the interferon pathway is triggered - fighting the invasion and halting viral replication. This interferon burst signals a host of cellular activities aimed at wiping out the tiny invaders, and in many cases this is extremely effective. However, some more insidious viruses have evolved ways of interfering with this interferon pathway - allowing them to sneak in and takeover.

"We thought that since the Interferon signalling pathway enhances the immune response against viruses so effectively, viruses might have evolved means to block it - such a reality would explain why several viruses are so troublesome to defeat"

How can we overcome this problem?

Research has revealed that viruses such as the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) specifically target this interferon pathway. While previously it was believed this pathway was relatively well understood, scientists at Trinity College Dublin have now uncovered an additional, critical molecule in the system - STAT3. STAT3 is involved in healthy cellular growth but it also apparently plays an essential anti-viral role. 

"For decades we have known that STAT3 is essential for healthy cell growth, but our new revelation identifies it for the first time as an essential anti-viral component in the Interferon signalling pathway. In fact, we found that without STAT3, cells cannot fight the common Flu virus or the Pox vaccinia virus"

A further understanding of exactly how these viruses are able to sidestep or block our defences will enable us to reinstate an effective defence and potentially improve vaccination strategies too. 

Read more at MedicalXpress