Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

How the Immune System Eliminates Mosquito-Borne Viruses-New Insights. (EH Update)

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

How the Immune System Eliminates Mosquito-Borne Viruses-New Insights. (EH Update)

Article excerpt

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have determined that neurons throughout the central nervous system react differently to the body's immune defenses to rid themselves of viruses that cause encephalitis, such as the West Nile and eastern equine encephalitis viruses. Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain and can cause neurological problems including seizures, coma, and death.

In a study published in the July 13, 2001, issue of Science, researchers discovered that T-cells produce a protein, interferon-[gamma], which can clear the virus in neurons located in the spinal cord and brain stem, but not in neurons located in the cerebral cortex. (Neurons are cells that conduct and generate electrical impulses to carry information throughout the central nervous system.) The findings could lead to new approaches to the treatment of viral encephalitis.

"Our previous research indicated that antibodies successfully clear infection from the central nervous system. With this study, we wanted to see if lymphocytes could also clear viral infections from the neurons," said Diane Griffin, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. "Normally, T-cells control virus infections by destroying infected cells, but that would be counter-productive for neurons, because the body does not make new neurons," explained Dr. …

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