Interferon-λ cures persistent murine norovirus infection in the absence of adaptive immunity

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Science  16 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6219, pp. 269-273
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258100

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Turning viral persistence on and off

Norovirus causes >90% of the world's gastroenteritis. Norovirus can establish persistent infections, which may contribute to its spread. How does norovirus establish itself as a permanentw resident of the gut and how can such persistent infections be cured (see the Perspective by Wilks and Golovkina)? Baldridge et al. studied mice persistently infected with norovirus and found that viral persistence required the gut microbiota: resident bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Antibiotics prevented persistent mouse norovirus infection in a way that depended on the secreted antiviral protein interferon λ (IFN-λ). Nice et al. report that IFN-λ can cure mice persistently infected with norovirus, independent of the adaptive immune system.

Science, this issue p. 266, p. 269; see also p. 233


Norovirus gastroenteritis is a major public health burden worldwide. Although fecal shedding is important for transmission of enteric viruses, little is known about the immune factors that restrict persistent enteric infection. We report here that although the cytokines interferon-α (IFN-α) and IFN-β prevented the systemic spread of murine norovirus (MNoV), only IFN-λ controlled persistent enteric infection. Infection-dependent induction of IFN-λ was governed by the MNoV capsid protein and correlated with diminished enteric persistence. Treatment of established infection with IFN-λ cured mice in a manner requiring nonhematopoietic cell expression of the IFN-λ receptor, Ifnlr1, and independent of adaptive immunity. These results suggest the therapeutic potential of IFN-λ for curing virus infections in the gastrointestinal tract.

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