News of the WeekMICROBIAL DISEASES

How Rotavirus Causes Diarrhea

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Science  21 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5452, pp. 409-411
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5452.409b

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Summary

Rotavirus infections can be deadly in infants because they cause the intestine to secrete copious amounts of fluid, leading to death by dehydration. Just rotavirus triggers this excess fluid secretion has long been mysterious, however. Now, on 491, researchers show that, in mice, the virus activates the enteric nervous system, the nerves that control the intestine's movements and its fluid absorption and secretion. The activated nerves apparently stimulate cells of the intestinal lining to boost their water secretion, resulting in diarrhea. Understanding what causes the excess fluid secretion in rotavirus diarrhea is an important first step in figuring out how to block it with drugs.