Immune mechanism that attacks viruses discovered

Posted on Aug 6, 2015 in Medical Rewind, Vaccines

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MAINZ, Germany, June 15 (UPI) — Proteins from the immune system and lymphatic system were shown to work together to fight off infection from rotavirus in a recent study, an insight which could lead to better antiviral drugs in the future.

Both proteins are part of the body’s innate immune system, leading researchers to hope the study will help with rotavirus in children, who are especially susceptible to it because their acquired immune system has not developed yet.

In the study, researchers introduced the rotavirus to interferons from the innate immune system, which trigger a response from the immune system, and innate lymphoid cells, which produce proteins that are important to the early stages of immune response from the body.

The lymphoid protein used in the study, interleukin-22, has a role in immune responses for bacterial infection, as well as tissue repair, and interferons are used in certain types of viral infections, making the discovery potentially significant.

“We were able to show that interferon-lambda, although a required factor, is not capable by itself to control rotavirus infection but that the presence of interleukin-22 is also necessary to effectively combat rotavirus,” said Professor Andreas Diefenbach of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene of the Mainz University Medical Center, in a press release.

“Our new discovery that interleukin-22 acts as a sort of reinforcement for interferon is so exciting because it could have implications for the design of future immunotherapy concepts.”

The study is published in Nature Immunology.