How Dengue Virus adapts as it Travels Decoded

  • Posted on: 22 July 2015
  • By: Shalini.Sharma

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Scientists have for the first time explained the mechanisms that the dengue virus has developed to optimise its ability to cause outbreaks as it travels across the globe to new places and revisits old ones. Dengue virus has been spreading throughout warm regions of the world, prompting the virus to adapt to new environments.

This diversification in viral strains has resulted in the development of strains that appear associated with greater potential for sparking epidemics. In the study, researchers examined the different clades of dengue virus-2 known to be circulating around Puerto Rico in 1994 when a severe epidemic broke out.

Investigating the differences between the virus strain that was most commonly seen from 1986 to 1995 and a new, more potent viral strain that was first isolated in 1994 was the key to figuring out why this outbreak occurred, researchers said. They identified an interaction between the newcomer virus' RNA and proteins within the host that allows the virus to bypass the host's immune response, making it easier for the virus to invade. Based on the findings, the research team devised a model to explain the 1994 dengue outbreak in Puerto Rico.

"This study highlights the critical and oft forgotten role played by non-coding RNAs in the battle between viruses and their human hosts," said author Mariano Garcia-Blanco, professor at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "It emphasises the importance of multidisciplinary research: a fabulous marriage of basic RNA biology and clinically informed epidemiology uncovered an unexpected route of virus evolution that explained (and perhaps could predict) epidemic potential," Garcia-Blanco said. The study was published in the journal Science. PTI


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