Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Expanding the Arsenal
15 January 2013

Expanding the Arsenal

The coughs and sneezes that spread diseases have many causes. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (pictured, highly magnified and falsely coloured) is a common one. For most, symptoms are no worse than a common cold, but for the very young they can be severe and even fatal. Pain and obstruction from inflamed lung tissue can be alleviated but without a vaccine RSV continues to be a global health threat. The work of Royal Society Fellow Brigitte Askonas – who died last week, aged 89 – provided major insights into how we fight viruses, including RSV. Her discovery that cytotoxic T-cells – white blood cells that destroy our infected and damaged cells – could singly recognise different forms a virus can take, continues to inform the design of vaccines. Getting T-cells involved is likely to help virus vaccine strategies succeed.

Written by Lindsey Goff

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