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New vaccine prevents CMV infection and disease in mice

ormant for years, if not the lifetime, of a healthy individual. However, two percent of all children are born with the virus passed on by the mother in utero, and 15 percent of those children will show symptoms such as hearing loss, mental retardation, motor or learning disabilities. Because the host’s natural immune system can protect from the disease but can’t rid the body of the virus, people remain infected and can become re-infected or infect others through saliva.

“Children in day care settings, for example, or adults who are sexually active, can pass along the virus,” explained Spector. “It becomes a serious problem in developing infants during the pregnancy or in those whose immune system is compromised, such as AIDS or transplant patients.”

When a persistent virus such as CMV infects an individual, it disarms the host immune system in two ways – by hiding or masking the proteins that would normally provoke an immune response, or by fooling the immune system into mounting a response that doesn’t work to eradicate the virus.

“We needed a way to make the host defense system sit up and take notice,” said Christopher S. Morello, Ph.D., first author of the study.

To do this, the researchers devised a vaccine with a one-two punch that combines a DNA immunization that targets T-cells to essential genes required for CMV replication, with a killed virus that prompts the body’s B-cells to generate an antibody response.

The vaccine contains the DNA of two essential genes that are essential for replication of the virus. These genes – which are also found in other herpes viruses such as chicken pox or herpes simplex – have the same or very similar sequence, structure and function whether in human or mouse viruses, and present a novel target for the host’s T-cells to muster forces and attack the virus. Secondly, the vaccine also contains a “boost” from an inactivated virus, which generates an antibody response.
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Source:University of California - San Diego


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