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

gene sequence of the defective version that it is the same lineage and is a continued propagation of the virus," said Lloyd-Smith, who holds UCLA's De Logi Chair in Biological Sciences. "From 2001 to 2002, it went from being quite rare to being in all nine people we sampled that year; everybody sampled who was getting dengue fever was getting the defective version along with the functional virus. It rose from being rare to being very common in just one year."

Most surprisingly, Lloyd-Smith said, the combination of the defective virus with the normal virus was "more fit" than the normal dengue virus alone.

"What we have shown is that this defective virus, which everyone had thought was useless or even detrimental to the fitness of the functional virus, actually appears to have made it better able to spread," he said. "Ruian [Ke] calculated that the defective virus makes it at least 10 percent more transmissible, which is a lot. It was spreading better with its weird, defective cousin tagging along than on its own.

"This study has shown that the functional virus and defective virus travel in unison. The two transmit together in an unbroken chain, and that's not just a matter of getting into the same human or the same mosquito they need to get into the same cell inside that human or mosquito in order to share their genes and for the defective version to continue 'hitchhiking.' We are gaining insights into the cellular-level biology of how dengue is infecting hosts. It must be the case that frequently there are multiple infections of single cells.

"Ruian showed the defective virus appeared one to three years before these major epidemics," Lloyd-Smith added. "One could imagine that if you build an understanding of this mechanism, you could measure it, see it coming and potentially get ahead of it."

Might defective viruses play a role in the transmission of influenza, measles and other diseases?

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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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