BIOMEDICINE: Deadly Exposure

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Science  19 Dec 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5909, pp. 1758b
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5909.1758b

In the Northern Hemisphere, winter is coming; so too are the seasonal episodes of cold and flu. With such a wide range of viruses causing a multitude of human and animal diseases, there remains a lucrative market for drugs that can target multiple classes of viruses and hence boost the current armory of antiviral therapies. The challenge is to develop therapies that are specific, yet avoid stimulating drug resistance.

When viruses hijack intracellular machinery in order to replicate, they alter the infected host cells, making them more visible to the immune system or to specific drugs. Phosphatidylserine is an abundant phospholipid that is actively maintained on the inner side of the plasma membrane, but under certain conditions the asymmetrical localization of this and other aminophospholipids is lost. Soares et al. reasoned that infected cells might also expose hidden lipids, which could be used as drug targets. Indeed, they found that four different viruses, including influenza A, induced infected cells to expose phosphatidylserine on their outer surfaces, which could then be recognized by the mouse/human chimeric antibody bavituximab. Animals that had been infected with lethal doses of Pichinde virus or cytomegalovirus were saved by bavituximab treatment, which caused cytotoxicity of virus-infected cells. — HP*

Nat. Med. 14, 1357 (2008).

  • * Helen Pickersgill is a locum editor in Science's editorial department.

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