New vaccine hope for leading viral cause of birth defects

April 10, 2014
New vaccine hope for leading viral cause of birth defects

(Medical Xpress)—Experts in infection and immunity have made a path-finding discovery that could lead to the development of a vaccine for a health-ravaging virus that affects around 50% of adults in the UK.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the leading viral cause of congenital birth defects, with 1 in 750 babies in the UK being born with permanent disabilities - these include blindness, deafness and brain damage - as a result of infection within the womb.

Scientists from Cardiff have uncovered a novel defence mechanism to control disease, using the most common form of white blood cell – neutrophils.

Although it has long been known that neutrophils are important in killing bacterial infections, it was largely thought that they were specifically designed for this cause; the fact that they can also fight a viral attack is a major breakthrough according to Dr Ian Humphreys from the University's School of Medicine:

"Our study shows that neutrophils protect our organs from CMV by producing a protein called TRAIL that can directly kill virus-infected cells. Our body attracts the neutrophils to where the virus is replicating by producing the protein IL-22, which acts as a homing signal.

"Disease may actually be prevented if we can teach the immune system to quickly send antiviral to the first site of infection. We are now developing a that may protect the body against CMV. Our findings may also have implications for other destructive viruses such as flu, hepatitis and even HIV."

Dr Chris Benedict from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (San Diego, California) said:

"Neutrophils are the rapid-response arm of the immune system's war against infection. The discovery of a new molecular mechanism for neutrophil mobilization and execution in the fight against CMV is very exciting, and provides key insights for developing more effective vaccines and therapies to combat this little-known viral pathogen."

Currently there is no known treatment for CMV. Given that the virus spreads via bodily secretions such as urine, saliva and breast milk, scientists at Cardiff sought to understand how to protect mucosal sites from , and how to prevent the virus taking its grip in other important organs such as the liver.

The is also a major reason behind life-threatening diseases in bone marrow and organ transplant recipients and is known to have a major impact on the immune system of even the healthiest of adults.

The paper is published today in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Explore further: People with leukaemia are more prone to infection – but not from one particular herpes virus

Related Stories

People with leukaemia are more prone to infection – but not from one particular herpes virus

March 19, 2014
People with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) are essentially more prone to infections such as varicella, influenza or pneumococci due to the reduction in the number of antibodies that their condition causes. Researchers ...

Study advances fight against leading infectious cause of congenital birth defects

March 13, 2013
A virus most people probably have never heard of, but that the majority of us carry, is the No. 1 infectious cause of congenital birth defects in the U.S. today. Because of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection during in utero ...

Novel vaccine approach to human cytomegalovirus found effective

September 18, 2013
An experimental vaccine against human cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, which endangers the developing fetus, organ transplant recipients, patients with HIV and others who have a weakened immune system, proved safe and more ...

Researchers identify protein that helps control common viral infection

March 26, 2014
Infectious disease specialists at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center have identified a protein that regulates the body's immune response to cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common pathogen that causes lifelong infections and can ...

New study finds novel population of neutrophils

March 24, 2014
Case Western Reserve University researchers have discovered a novel population of neutrophils, which are the body's infection control workhorses. These cells have an enhanced microbial killing ability and are thereby better ...

Researchers show long-term consequences of chronic virus infection

August 16, 2012
The cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a member of the herpesvirus family. Although most people carry CMV for life, it hardly ever makes them sick. Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and from the USA have ...

Recommended for you

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

0 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.