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News

Interfering with ways in which viruses counteract the immune response may lead to novel vaccines

Society For General Microbiology : 29 March, 2004  (Company News)
Novel vaccines to some viruses may be possible due to work studying the way viruses block our bodies' natural defence mechanisms, scientists from the University of St Andrews will announce at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Bath.
Novel vaccines to some viruses may be possible due to work studying the way viruses block our bodies' natural defence mechanisms, scientists from the University of St Andrews will announce at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting in Bath.

When viruses infect the cells in our bodies, the cells respond by producing a substance called interferon, which blocks the growth of the virus and thus helps reduce the spread of infection. However, many viruses specifically produce products which prevent interferon from working properly.

'It is like a chess game with moves and counter moves. We have evolved strategies to ward off attacks by viruses and the viruses respond with their own counter measures', says Prof Richard Randall of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. 'For example, we have identified a protein produced by the group of viruses we are studying, which cause mumps, measles and respiratory infections, which stops interferon working properly thus allowing them to carry on infecting our cells'.

The Scottish scientists are working out the exact molecular details of how the virus defence protein works. Using this information they hope to develop new and more effective vaccines, and improve the way vaccines are manufactured.

'When virus vaccines are made in the laboratory, they are often grown in cells which respond to the virus infection by making interferon, and this can reduce the virus yield' says Prof Randall. 'If we can get the cells to also make the virus protein that blocks the interferon response we might increase production of the virus vaccines'.

'In addition, we may be able to develop new types of vaccines by modifying viruses so that they cannot get round our bodies' own interferon response' says Prof Randall.
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