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Virus triggers immune proteins to aid enemy

Attack on antibody cells may explain persistence of chronic infections

By
3:24pm, October 21, 2016
interferon in B cells

GOING VIRAL When scientists stopped virus-infected mice from making type 1 interferon proteins, the mice had 20 times more virus-fighting B cells (right) than mice making the proteins (left).

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Crucial immune system proteins that make it harder for viruses to replicate might also help the attackers avoid detection, three new studies suggest. When faced with certain viruses, the proteins can set off a cascade of cell-to-cell messages that destroy antibody-producing immune cells. With those virus-fighting cells depleted, it’s easier for the invader to persist inside the host’s body.

The finding begins to explain a longstanding conundrum: how certain chronic viral infections can dodge the immune system’s antibody response, says David Brooks, an immunologist at the University of Toronto not involved in the research. The new studies, all published October 21 in Science Immunology, pin the blame on the same set of proteins: type 1 interferons.

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