The liver is a serious multi-tasker. It has a wide range of functions from breaking down drug products in our blood to producing bile to break down fats. When the liver gets diseased, the most common culprits are one of the five known hepatitis viruses. By using next-generation sequencing, scientists recently analysed plasma from a patient infected with hepatitis C virus (pictured), and discovered a completely new virus. Provisionally designated human pegivirus 2, it was also found in other patients already infected with hepatitis C. It’s possible however for a virus to get into a cell and multiply but then cause no disease, thanks to our immune system keeping it in check. So the next important step is to find out if human pegivirus 2 can actually cause us harm. Screening for the virus, to ensure that blood components – for example for transfusion – are not contaminated, can then follow.
Written by Soumya Perinparajah
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