Four seemingly unrelated viral diseases may some day be defeated by asingle treatment, according to a recent collaborative study involvingresearchers at the University of Georgia's College of VeterinaryMedicine.
Their study focuses on viruses responsible for HIV, measles, Ebolaand Marburg and includes investigators from Vanderbilt UniversityMedical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thestudy is being funded by a grant from the Hudson-Alpha Institute forBiotechnology.
In the September issue of the Journal of Virology, ThomasHodge, research professor of infectious diseases at the veterinarycollege, and his colleagues report that blocking a protein that helpstransport viruses out of a cell keeps these four viruses fromreproducing and infecting other cells.
Most antiviral therapies target the virus itself, but virusesare quick to adapt to the body's attempts to disable them, Hodgeexplained. They can mutate rapidly and develop resistance to almost anyantiviral compound. By focusing on the host cell while most scientistsconcentrate on the virus, Hodge and his colleagues hope to identify newways to combat viral diseases.
The researchers identified a cellular protein called Rab9 -- a factor required for viruses to reproduce in a cell.Disrupting Rab9 prevented the replication of four different viruses -- Marburg, Ebola, HIV-1, and measles viruses.
"We believe that interfering with the Rab9 pathway interfereswith the ability of the viruses to exit the cell, thereby dramaticallydecreasing the ability of the virus to spread rapidly and produceinfection," Hodge said.
Because these viruses depend heavily on this exit pathway, theyprobably would not be able to find another route out of the cell. Thissuggests that Rab9 and other components of this exit pathway might beattractive targets for antiviral therapies for a variety of viruses.
Blocking Rab9 may have significant side effects, but there arepeople who live without Rab9, Hodge explained. Although they havemetabolic problems, they are generally able to control their conditionwith diet and medication.Temporarily blocking the Rab9 pathway would be unlikely to harm thebody, Hodge added, because human cells tend to have backup systems thatcan compensate.
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