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How Virus Puts the 'Pink' in Pink Eye

Finding what causes inflammation may lead to treatment, researchers say

THURSDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have figured out how the eye reacts to the virus that causes pink eye -- a finding from an animal study that could lead to a better treatment for the condition.

Pink eye (viral keratoconjunctivitis) is highly contagious, and some people with the condition must remain in isolation for up to two weeks. Inflammation causes red, irritated eyes, blurry vision and uncomfortable discharge. Worse, there is no known effective treatment for it.

Scientists used a new model to identify what part of the pink eye virus (adenovirus keratitus) caused the inflammation familiar to people suffering from the condition.

In tests on mice with pink eye, the scientists found that the protein coat of the virus (viral capsid) induces inflammation. They also determined that inflammation could be blocked by a peptide containing components of the same protein coat.

"We were interested in understanding what part of the human adenovirus causes inflammation. We found that is it the protein coating around the virus that is the most inflammatory in the eye," senior author Dr. James Chodosh, a surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye and Eye Infirmary, said in a news release.

"This is important because without inflammation, there would be no discharge from the eye, and therefore no transmission [of the disease]. Now that we know what causes the inflammation, we hope to find a way to block it," he said.

The study appears in the April 15 issue of the journal PLoS Pathogens.

More information

The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology has more about pink eye.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Massachusetts Eye and Eye Infirmary, news release, April 15, 2010

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