Human protein may prevent H1N1 influenza infection

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have identified a naturally occurring human protein that helps prevent infection by H1N1 influenza and other viruses, including West Nile and dengue virus.

A research team led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Stephen J. Elledge and his colleague, Abraham Brass, discovered that human cells respond to infection by the H1N1 influenza virus by ramping up production of proteins that have unexpectedly powerful antiviral effects.

In cultured human cells, those proteins, whose functions were previously unknown, block the replication of H1N1 influenza virus, West Nile virus, and dengue virus.

The unexpected discovery could lead to the development of more effective antiviral drugs, including prophylactic drugs that could be used to slow influenza transmission.

The finding, reported December_17, 2009, in an early online article in the journal Cell, is the result of a collaborative effort by researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Yale Medical School, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK.

“This work shows the power of comprehensive screens to identify cellular proteins that are involved in viral replication,” said HHMI investigator Robert A. Lamb, a virologist at Northwestern University who was not involved in the study reported in Cell.

Source: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA

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