Researchers moving towards ending threat of West Nile virus

Mosquitoes are buzzing once again, and with that comes the threat of West Nile virus. Tom Hobman, a researcher with the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, is making every effort to put an end to this potentially serious infection.

infections often result in flu-like symptoms that aren't life-threatening, and some in cases, infected people show no symptoms at all. But a significant percentage of patients develop serious neurological disease that includes inflammation in the brain, paralysis and seizures. In his latest research, published in the journal PLoS One, Hobman has discovered how the breaks through the normally rock-solid blood-brain barrier to the central nervous system. The virus breaks down two vital proteins that make up what is called the tight junction, a part of the blood-brain barrier.

"What we found in infected cells is there's less of two proteins called claudin and JAM (junctional adhesion molecule)," said Hobman. "The virus replication is causing degradation of two very important molecules that form these intra-cellular barriers. We can quantitate this and we've looked in at least three different cell types and we see the same thing happening."

Now Hobman and his graduate student Zaikun Xu would like to know how this is happening. Cells have built in pathways that regulate tight junctions, in part by controlling the levels of both JAM and claudin. Hobman hypothesizes that West Nile virus infection causes these pathways to go awry – resulting in accelerated breakdown of claudin and JAM.

"Once we understand how West Nile virus affects the pathways that control the tight junctions of the blood-brain barrier, it may be possible to design drugs that prevent infection of the brain. I expect this will also be the case for related viruses that infect the central nervous system."

This builds on work his lab published last year showing that when they inhibited the expression of a specific cellular protein, infectivity of the West Nile virus went down by more than 100 times.

Related Stories

Patients recover from West Nile virus after one year

date Aug 19, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- People infected with West Nile virus seem to return to normal within one year of experiencing symptoms, a new McMaster study has found. The study, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is the ...

Study to examine new treatment for West Nile virus

date Aug 18, 2010

Neurological and infectious disease experts at Rush University Medical Center are testing a new drug therapy for the treatment of individuals with West Nile fever or suspected central nervous system infection due to the West ...

Good long-term prognosis after West Nile virus infection

date Aug 18, 2008

The long-term prognosis of patients infected with West Nile virus is good, according to a new study appearing in the August 19, 2008, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, the American College of Physicians' flagship journa ...

New and improved test for West Nile virus in horses

date Aug 20, 2008

A new test for West Nile virus in horses that could be modified for use on humans and wildlife may help track the spread of the disease, according to an article in the September issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

Recommended for you

Organ transplant rejection may not be permanent

date 36 minutes ago

Rejection of transplanted organs in hosts that were previously tolerant may not be permanent, report scientists from the University of Chicago. Using a mouse model of cardiac transplantation, they found that immune tolerance ...

Researchers find key mechanism that causes neuropathic pain

date 2 hours ago

Scientists at the University of California, Davis, have identified a key mechanism in neuropathic pain. The discovery could eventually benefit millions of patients with chronic pain from trauma, diabetes, shingles, multiple ...

Deep sea light shines on drug delivery potential

date 3 hours ago

A naturally occurring bioluminescent protein found in deep sea shrimp—which helps the crustacean spit a glowing cloud at predators—has been touted as a game-changer in terms of monitoring the way drugs ...

Researchers learn to measure aging process in young adults

date 20 hours ago

Looking around at a 20th high school reunion, you might notice something puzzling about your classmates. Although they were all born within months of each other, these 38-year-olds appear to be aging at different ...

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.