Scientists Pinpoint Cause for Virus-Induced Infant Hospitalization
Chapel Hill, NC – Researchers at UNC School of Medicine have pinpointed a viral protein that plays a major role in making respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) the most common cause of hospitalization in children under one year of age.
The discovery, published April 8 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is the first step toward identifying better diagnostics and potential treatments for an infection that strikes nearly all children before they reach the age of three and causing severe disease in 3 percent of infected children. RSV is the second-leading cause of infant mortality due to infectious disease globally behind only malaria.
“We’ve known for a long time that RSV has an increased propensity, compared to other respiratory viruses, for causing obstruction and inflammation in the narrowest airways of the infant lung, leading to severe bronchiolitis,” said Raymond Pickles, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology and senior author of the JCI paper. “But what we’ve now shown is that RSV has an increased ability to cause airway obstruction because, during an RSV infection, the virus expresses a specific RSV-encoded non-structural protein, or NS2, in epithelial cells, causing the cells to shed from the airway lining and into the airway lumen. This leads to obstruction of airflow in the small airways and overwhelming inflammation.” Continue>
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