Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Gene Rift
13 March 2017

Gene Rift

Rift Valley fever starts with similar symptoms to a mild cold. For an unlucky few, it progresses to internal bleeding, sight loss, liver problems and even death. Outbreaks happen regularly in sub-Saharan Africa, killing tens or even hundreds of people and livestock. It’s caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, but the exact way in which it infects human and animal cells is still a mystery. The viral genetic information is encoded in three different-sized strands of RNA [a chemical similar to DNA] and scientists have now discovered that each strand can infect cells to different degrees. These monkey kidney cells have been highlighted with fluorescent dyes to reveal infection with the small (green), medium (red) or large (blue) RNA. There’s no human vaccine for Rift Valley fever virus, although there’s one currently available for animals. By uncovering the infection process, researchers hope to develop new prevention and treatment approaches.

Written by Kat Arney

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