Protein identified that's essential for hantavirus entry into lung cells
The early symptoms of a hantavirus infection – fatigue, fever and muscle aches – are similar to countless other viral infections, but as the disease progresses, the symptoms can dramatically worsen. The virus attacks the lungs causing an accumulation of fluid that leads to severe coughing, shortness of breath and, in almost 40 percent of cases, death. While hantavirus infections, which are contracted from the urine and droppings of mice and rats carrying the microbe, are thankfully very rare, there is no vaccine and no cure. Investigations into the biology of the virus have now discovered a human protein called protocadherin-1 (labeled fluorescent green) that resides at the surface of lung cells (pictured) and is essential for virus entry. Indeed, lab animals genetically engineered to lack the protein were resistant to hantavirus infection. Understanding how this deadly microbe enters the body will thus give scientists essential insights on how to stop it.
Written by Ruth Williams
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