Scientists have discovered the mechanism by which viruses such as influenza, West Nile and Dengue evade the body's immune response and infect people. The findings may provide scientists with a new target for antiviral therapies.
What has been examined in the new study are the mechanisms by which certain types of viruses, like the flu virus, are able to disarm the body’s natural immune response. Specifically what was found that the viruses are capable of activating a class of molecules, known as TAM receptors, which are located on the outside of the body’s immune cells. In the immune system, TAM receptors are used by cells, such as macrophages and dendritic cells, to clean up dead cells and thus they play a vital role in fighting diseases.
The viruses use a substance called phosphatidylserine to overcome the body’s immune cell receptors and effectively disable them. This allows the virus to spread with less resistance from the human body.
Having identified the mechanism, the science group now hope to develop broad-spectrum antiviral drugs that prevent viruses from shutting down the interferon response in cells by blocking TAM receptor activation.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The study has been published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe. The paper is titled “Enveloped Viruses Disable Innate Immune Responses in Dendritic Cells by Direct Activation of TAM Receptors.”