New insight into leading viral cause of congenital birth defects

April 4, 2017, Cardiff University

A study led by Cardiff University has revealed why CMV - a virus responsible for 1000 birth defects a year in the UK - is so adept at evading the immune system. The new findings could help in the development of treatments for this and other currently untreatable viruses.

By studying infected grown in a laboratory, the team found that a large number of CMV's genes help it hide from the immune system by allowing it to destroy many of the proteins produced by the body during virus infection and preventing them from activating to destroy the virus.

Dr Ceri Fielding from Cardiff University's School of Medicine said: "The scale of the effect of CMV's genes on the immune system surprised us. The number of immune activating proteins destroyed by these virus was unprecedented given any previous discoveries of virus immune evasion strategies.

"In addition to providing new information that could help develop novel treatments or a cure for this virus, the findings can also tell us more about how our immune recognizes beyond CMV."

Congenital CMV is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in children and one of the main causes of childhood disability. It is the most complex human virus and causes lifelong infection. Most healthy adults and children who become infected will have no signs or symptoms and no long term effects. It can however pose serious risks to unborn babies if a pregnant woman catches it for the first time and is a major problem for people with impaired immune systems.

The results of the study were obtained by infecting laboratory-grown cells with forms of the CMV virus which differed only by the removal of a single gene. The cells were then compared to those infected with the standard CMV to see how they differed in their activation of immune cells. This was done by identifying amounts of thousands of individual proteins on the surface of the cell.

The study 'Control of immune ligands by members of a cytomegalovirus gene expansion suppresses natural killer cell activation' is published in eLIFE.

Explore further: Mouse model could shed new light on immune system response to Zika virus

More information: Ceri A Fielding et al, Control of immune ligands by members of a cytomegalovirus gene expansion suppresses natural killer cell activation, eLife (2017). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.22206

Related Stories

Mouse model could shed new light on immune system response to Zika virus

February 23, 2017
A new mouse model with a working immune system could be used in laboratory research to improve understanding of Zika virus infection and aid development of new treatments, according to a study published in PLOS Pathogens.

Genetic variant linked to overactive inflammatory response

February 28, 2017
Researchers at Cardiff University have discovered that genetic variation is the reason why some immune systems overreact to viruses.

Silence is golden—Suppressing host response to Ebola virus may help to control infection

March 22, 2017
The Ebola virus causes a severe, often fatal illness when it infects the human body. Initially targeting cells of the immune system called macrophages, white blood cells that absorb and clear away pathogens, a new study has ...

Scientists develop new mouse model to aid Zika virus research

November 17, 2016
Researchers have developed a new mouse model that could be used in Zika research to better understand the virus and find new treatments, according to a study published in PLOS Pathogens.

Researchers find how Ebola disables the immune system

December 6, 2016
A new study at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston sheds light on how Ebola so effectively disables the human immune system.

Understanding immune reaction to the hepatitis B virus

November 28, 2016
A collaboration of researchers from Japan and Malaysia has further clarified the immune response to hepatitis B virus through in vivo experimentation.

Recommended for you

Study looks at how newly discovered gene helps grow blood vessels

February 19, 2018
A new study published today found that a newly discovered gene helps grow blood vessels when it senses inadequate blood flow to tissues.

Scientists produce human intestinal lining that re-creates living tissue inside organ-chip

February 16, 2018
Investigators have demonstrated how cells of a human intestinal lining created outside an individual's body mirror living tissue when placed inside microengineered Intestine-Chips, opening the door to personalized testing ...

Data wave hits health care

February 16, 2018
Technology used by Facebook, Google and Amazon to turn spoken language into text, recognize faces and target advertising could help doctors fight one of the deadliest infections in American hospitals.

Researcher explains how statistics, neuroscience improve anesthesiology

February 16, 2018
It's intuitive that anesthesia operates in the brain, but the standard protocol among anesthesiologists when monitoring and dosing patients during surgery is to rely on indirect signs of arousal like movement, and changes ...

Team reports progress in pursuit of sickle cell cure

February 16, 2018
Scientists have successfully used gene editing to repair 20 to 40 percent of stem and progenitor cells taken from the peripheral blood of patients with sickle cell disease, according to Rice University bioengineer Gang Bao.

Appetite-controlling molecule could prevent 'rebound' weight gain after dieting

February 15, 2018
Scientists have revealed how mice control their appetite when under stress such as cold temperatures and starvation, according to a new study by Monash University and St Vincent's Institute in Melbourne. The results shed ...

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.