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'Defective' virus surprisingly plays major role in spread of disease, UCLA life scientists report
Date:3/1/2013

Defective viruses, thought for decades to be essentially garbage unrelated to the transmission of normal viruses, now appear able to play an important role in the spread of disease, new research by UCLA life scientists indicates.

Defective viruses have genetic mutations or deletions that eliminate their essential viral functions. They have been observed for many human pathogens and are generated frequently for viruses that have high mutation rates. However, for some 40 years, it was believed that they were unimportant in natural settings.

In findings published Feb. 28 in the journal PLoS Pathogens, UCLA scientists and their colleagues report for the first time a significant link between a defective virus and an increased rate of transmission of a major disease.

"The idea has always been that defective viruses are either meaningless or detrimental," said James O. Lloyd-Smith, a UCLA assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the senior author of the research. "We have found the opposite of that that the defective virus is actually helping the normal, functional virus. This finding is bizarre and hard to believe, but the data are the data."

"We have shown that the defective virus not only transmits with the virus but increases the transmission of the functional virus," said Ruian Ke, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology and the lead author of the study.

Defective viruses cannot complete their life cycle on their own, but if they're able to get into the same cell with a non-defective virus, they can "hitchhike" with the normal virus and propagate, Lloyd-Smith said. Biologists had thought that defective viruses interfered with normal versions of the virus, "clogging up the gears of viral replication," he said.

The life scientists studied DENV-1, one of four known types of the dengue virus that infect humans. Dengue viruses are transm
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Contact: Stuart Wolpert
swolpert@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0511
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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