Novel approach to virus might lead to cure for diarrhea


A cure for the infection that causes diarrhea is on the horizon.

Activation of the innate immune system with the bacterial protein flagellin could prevent and cure rotavirus infection, which is among the most common causes of severe diarrhea, says a Georgia State University research team that described the method as a novel means to prevent and treat a viral infection.

A Georgia State University research team published its findings in the Nov. 14 issue of Science, reporting that activating a human’s immune system with the bacterial protein flagellin has the ability to prevent and cure rotavirus, the most common cause of diarrhea.

“We’ve described a completely novel way to combat a viral infection by use of a bacterial-derived activator of the immune system,” said Dr. Andrew Gewirtz of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State. "It's analogous to equipping an NFL defense with baseball bats. Blatant violation of all the rules, and yet, at least in this case, very effective. What we’ve done is to broadly activate the innate immune system in a manner that will likely impede a wide range of viruses.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rotavirus causes about 500,000 deaths annually worldwide in children under 5 years old.

The research, performed on mice, was led by Gewirtz and GSU colleague Dr. Benyue Zhang, along with researchers from Emory University's School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Genentech and Penn State University. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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