We all have different responses to stress. Some people like to take it out through sport or hobbies, while others just want to hit the pub or stay in bed. In contrast, our cells respond to the stress of viral infection by going on strike. When healthy human nerve cells (left) are infected with the rabies virus, they generate small blobs known as stress granules (pink and yellow spots in the cells on the right, seen eight hours after infection). These granules gather together the cell’s protein-making machinery, preventing it from manufacturing any new molecules. It’s a useful defence mechanism, stopping new viruses from being produced and helping to limit the infection. It’s not perfect, however, and the rabies virus has evolved ways of getting around this shut-down. Although rabies is now rare in humans, it can still kill, so understanding how it affects cells is another step towards eradication.
Written by Kat Arney
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