Method for controlling West Nile virus found

Scientists from Yale and McGill University have recently identified a protein that has proven critical in fighting West Nile virus in mice and that may have therapeutic implications for controlling the virus in humans.

The study, which appears in the advance online publication of Nature Immunology, looks at the role of caspase-12, a protein that plays a part in the body’s immune response. The protein has been studied in regards to its function in fighting bacterial infection, but its role in viral immunity has previously remained unknown, according to

Caspase-12 regulates the signaling of RIG-I, an immune system protein that detects viral infection by recognizing its constituent genetic makeup, reports. A recognition pattern between the two proteins has been shown to be necessary to trigger an immune response to West Nile infection.

“Mice without caspase-12 protein died more rapidly from West Nile virus infection and had higher levels of virus than normal mice,” Erol Fikrig, co-author of the study, explained to

Fikrig is a professor of epidemiology, public health and microbial pathogenesis at Yale School of Medicine.

West Nile can be devastating to those with susceptible immune systems. The scientists’ findings have already opened possible avenues for further research, particularly on whether or not the human immune system can be regulated the same way as mice using capase-12.

“Our results now set the stage for the development of pharmacological compounds to boost the activity of caspase-12 in promoting virus elimination,” Maya Saleh, a co-author of the study, told “These findings have significant potential to be translated into therapies.”