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Research sheds new light on how diseases jump across species
Date:10/25/2007

Researchers at the University of Leeds have made a breakthrough in understanding a virus which poses one of the greatest global disease threats to wild carnivores including lions, African wild dogs and several types of seal.

The discovery of how canine distemper Virus (CDV) jumps across and infects different species of carnivores could lead to a more effective monitoring and control of the virus.

Whilst these pathogen jumps across species are quite common, very little is known about the process of how viruses takes hold and become established in new host species.

CDV is passed through close contact from domestic and feral dogs causing epidemics that often result in mass mortalities and is pushing some species to the brink of extinction (2).

The virus needs to bind to a specific receptor on cells in the host in order to infect it, explains lead researcher, PhD student Alex McCarthy, from the Universitys Faculty of Biological Sciences. But the sequences of receptors vary between species, so a virus from one species shouldnt be able recognise and infect the cells of other species.

By analysing the virus genetic sequence in both dog and wild carnivore species, the research team were able to prove that two key parts of a CDV protein specifically involved in receptor recognition had evolved during the host jumps, where as the rest of the protein showed very few changes among viruses from different species.

It was a very satisfying moment when our ideas proved correct, says McCarthy. The results really screamed out at us. They were so clear-cut, we think its highly likely that pathogen evolution is a much more general mechanism in cross-species transmission of viruses than anyone imagined.

The findings could lead on to new antiviral therapies that are targeted at the binding mechanism, to prevent the virus from taking hold, rather than trying to eradicate it once its in the hosts system.

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Contact: Jo Kelly
jokelly@campuspr.co.uk
44-011-325-89880
University of Leeds
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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