NewsImmunology

Viral Saboteurs Caught in the Act

Science  27 Feb 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5355, pp. 1305
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5355.1305

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Summary

Viruses often mimic normal host proteins to help them evade detection by the host immune system, but when the immune system catches on, immunologists think the resulting immune attack may damage host cells as well as the virus. On page 1344, immunologists provide the first conclusive evidence that such "molecular mimicry" can cause autoimmune disease. The group found that herpes stromal keratitis, a common autoimmune disease of the eye triggered by herpes simplex virus 1 that can cause blindness by clouding the cornea, is much more likely to develop in mice if the infecting virus carries a particular protein segment that closely resembles part of a protein found on the animals' corneal cells than if that viral segment is removed. By pointing to the protein that is the initial trigger for the autoimmune attack, the work may also help researchers design more specific therapies for blunting it.

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