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Infectious Virus Hides In Human Chromosomes During Latency And Can Be Passed From Parents To Their Children,
Date:3/8/2010

y one percent of the population born with viral DNA in every cell in their body, several questions arise. Are such people more prone to diseases because they have a greater risk of viral reactivation? If so, which diseases? If a person is born with viral proteins present from birth, would that person’s immune system be “fooled” into thinking that the virus was not foreign and need not be attacked? If so, is that a bad thing or a good thing for a person’s health? Finally, the virus inserts itself into the telomeres and could theoretically disrupt the function of the telomeres. Since the telomeres are important in cellular aging and in cancer, could the insertion of viral DNA in the telomeres have any effect on a cell’s tendency to age or to turn cancerous?

While unique among known human herpesviruses, the capacity of HHV-6 to integrate into human chromosomes is not unique in nature. A herpesvirus that infects chickens, called Marek’s disease virus, appears to behave the same way. Interestingly, although the viruses are not otherwise closely related, the DNA sequence used by Marek’s disease virus to integrate into chicken chromosomes is remarkably similar to the DNA sequence used for chromosomal integration by HHV-6.

There are many other unanswered questions that the Florida team hopes to sort out. “We would like to know whether the location of the integration has an impact on pathology.” said Medveczky. “We’d also like to know more about which drugs can provoke reactivation in patients that carry this virus in every cell.”

The University of South Florida study was funded by the HHV-6 Founda
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