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News

Fruit flies in fight against flu and fevers

Society For General Microbiology : 29 March, 2004  (Company News)
West Nile virus and dengue fever, two of the most feared diseases spread by mosquitoes and other biting insects, could be controlled in future by using techniques learned from studying the influenza virus, fruit flies and plants, according to scientists from the University of California speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Bath.
West Nile virus and dengue fever, two of the most feared diseases spread by mosquitoes and other biting insects, could be controlled in future by using techniques learned from studying the influenza virus, fruit flies and plants, according to scientists from the University of California speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Bath.

'We can study the way insects fight off viruses by looking at fruit flies', says Professor Shou-Wei Ding of the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California, USA. 'My colleagues and I have identified a new genetic technique that these flies use to respond to attacks from viruses, by targeting RNA, the messenger molecules inside cells which carry information'.

If the virus invades, and is allowed to make a protein inside the cell, it can stop this response by suppressing it. Without the vital protein, the insect's natural immunity kicks in, and the virus is rapidly kicked out of the cell. The researchers have shown that a similar defence system works in mosquitoes, holding out hope for the development of ways to control mosquito-borne diseases.

'We have also shown that influenza A, B and C viruses can also make potent versions of the protein which suppresses the fruit flies' ability to fight off attacks', says Prof Shou-Wei Ding. 'This suggests that the same genetic ability, using the same technique, is active in larger animals such as humans and other vertebrates'.

The researchers from California hope that their discoveries will eventually lead to new treatments for influenza and other viruses affecting humans, and also possible strategies to control the spread of some of the world's most dangerous insect-carried diseases such as malaria, West Nile fever and dengue.
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