Study: Epstein Barr virus protects against autoimmune disease

To the surprise of investigating researchers, an animal model of Epstein Barr virus protected lupus-prone mice against development of the autoimmune disease. Earlier work had suggested that EBV might promote the development of autoimmunity.

"We were completely surprised. So, we redid the experiments, and the results came out the same," said Dr. Pelanda, lead author on the paper appearing online in the Proceesing of the National Academy of Sciences. "We believe these findings could lead to therapeutic targets for lupus and other autoimmune diseases."

(EBV) infects most people in the United States by the time they are adults. It causes mononucleosis in about 35 to 50 percent of those infected. Acute symptoms usually pass within weeks, after which the virus goes into a dormant state within the body. The infection persists for a person's entire life and can activate in some cases.

Although the virus infects the vast majority of adults, it is found in an even higher percentage of , leading to the hypothesis that it may predispose people to .

EBV does not infect mice, but a related virus, gammahervesvirus 68, does and has a similar pattern of infection and symptoms. So Dr. Pelanda and her colleagues infected a mouse model of lupus with the virus. One hundred percent of the lupus model mice develop lupus by about one year of age.

In those mice infected with the gammaherpesvirus 68, however, antibodies associated with lupus did not increase, and actually decreased significantly in female mice. In kidneys, a major site of tissue damage in lupus, viral infection reduced tissue damage from 80 percent to 20 percent. Other measures of lupus, including activation of lymphocytes and , were also reduced in lupus-prone mice infected with the gammaherpesvirus 68.

"The virus inhibits the development and progression of lupus on many levels, from cellular to humoral and organ," said Dr. Pelanda. "For that reason, we believe it is affecting a basic mechanisms of ."

The researchers do not know how the gammaherpesvirus inhibits lupus, but have begun a systematic series of experiments to evaluate several potential mechanisms.

More information: “Murine gammaherpesvirus 68 infection protects lupus-prone mice from the development of autoimmunity,” by Jennifer D. Larson et al. PNAS, 2012.

Provided by National Jewish Health

5 /5 (1 vote)

Related Stories

Research suggests targeted treatment strategies for lupus

Nov 11, 2007

New research provides clues about the causes of lupus symptoms and suggests specific new targeted treatment strategies, according to Nilamadham Mishra, M.D., from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in presentations ...

First lupus breakthrough in 50 years

Apr 28, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- A Monash researcher has played a crucial role in the first major lupus treatment breakthrough for over 50 years.

Recommended for you

Could trophoblasts be the immune cells of pregnancy?

Dec 18, 2014

Trophoblasts, cells that form an outer layer around a fertilized egg and develop into the major part of the placenta, have now been shown to respond to inflammatory danger signals, researchers from Norwegian University of ...

Moms of food-allergic kids need dietician's support

Dec 18, 2014

Discovering your child has a severe food allergy can be a terrible shock. Even more stressful can be determining what foods your child can and cannot eat, and constructing a new diet which might eliminate entire categories ...

Multiple allergic reactions traced to single protein

Dec 17, 2014

Johns Hopkins and University of Alberta researchers have identified a single protein as the root of painful and dangerous allergic reactions to a range of medications and other substances. If a new drug can ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.