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West Nile, Dengue cures come closer to reality

Washington: For the diseases that have no known cure till date, a recent West Nile virus and Dengue virus-related discovery has offered fresh hope that the numbers can be made to come down in the future.

The University of Alberta research examines a previously unknown connection between flaviviruses, a classification of viruses that include West Nile virus, Dengue virus and tick-borne encephalitis virus, and organelles (a specialized subunit within a cell) known as peroxisomes that help coordinate the body’s immune responses.

The lead authors Jaehwan You and Shangmei Hou found that flaviviruses induce degradation of a protein called Pex19, which is essential for the building of new peroxisomes, setting off a chain reaction that could leave the body more vulnerable to viral infection.

Senior author Tom Hobman said that peroxisomes, as it turns out, are required for production of an antiviral molecule called interferon lambda, noting that interferon lambda is produced by infected cells and has been shown to inhibit replication of multiple viruses.

Hobman added that they hypothesized that loss of peroxisomes results in the loss of the ability of the cells to produce this interferon, which indeed was found to be the case. “It looks like the virus may be targeting peroxisomes to prevent antiviral defense by the cell.”

The researchers think it likely that other viruses may also target peroxisomes in a similar manner to flaviviruses. They hope to now show it through new studies which are currently underway.

The study is published in the Journal of Virology.