Helminth infection reactivates latent γ-herpesvirus via cytokine competition at a viral promoter

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Science  01 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6196, pp. 573-577
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254517

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Parasites make it hard to fight viruses

Microbial co-infections challenge the immune system—different pathogens often require different flavors of immune responses for their elimination or containment (see the Perspective by Maizels and Gause). Two teams studied what happens when parasitic worms and viruses infect mice at the same time. Reese et al. found that parasite co-infection woke up a dormant virus. Osborne et al. found that mice already infected with parasitic worms were worse at fighting off viruses. In both cases, worms skewed the immune response so that the immune cells and the molecules they secreted created an environment favorable for the worm at the expense of antiviral immunity.

Science, this issue p. 573 and p. 578; see also p. 517


Mammals are coinfected by multiple pathogens that interact through unknown mechanisms. We found that helminth infection, characterized by the induction of the cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) and the activation of the transcription factor Stat6, reactivated murine γ-herpesvirus infection in vivo. IL-4 promoted viral replication and blocked the antiviral effects of interferon-γ (IFNγ) by inducing Stat6 binding to the promoter for an important viral transcriptional transactivator. IL-4 also reactivated human Kaposi’s sarcoma–associated herpesvirus from latency in cultured cells. Exogenous IL-4 plus blockade of IFNγ reactivated latent murine γ-herpesvirus infection in vivo, suggesting a “two-signal” model for viral reactivation. Thus, chronic herpesvirus infection, a component of the mammalian virome, is regulated by the counterpoised actions of multiple cytokines on viral promoters that have evolved to sense host immune status.

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