Biology and Biochemistry graduate, Paula Jáuregui Onieva, has undertaken research for her PhD thesis on the factors of restriction of innate immunity present in sheep and goats. In concrete, she investigated if these factors had antiviral activity so that, pending further studies, they could be used in preventing certain diseases of these animals, such as mastitis, arthritis, pneumonia and/or encephalitis. The thesis is titled Inmunidad innata frente a lentivirus de pequeños rumiantes (SRLV): Papel de TRIM5 (Innate immunity against small ruminant lentivirus (SRLV): the role of TRIM5).
The PhD thesis deals with innate immunity against lentivirus in small ruminants. Lentivirus is a genus of viruses that produces slow infections, deteriorates the immune system and causes various pathologies. For example, in sheep, the Visna Maedi virus gives rise to nervous and brain diseases while the Maedi virus causes respiratory problems. Lentivirus in small ruminants makes up a highly heterogeneous, including also the caprine arthritis/encephalitis virus.
According to Ms Jáuregui, "currently there do not exist vaccinations or efficacious treatment for these types of infections, and so the study on the factors of restriction of innate immunity could be an effective alternative for treating or preventing these infections". The factors of restriction studied involve antiviral proteins present in certain cells which inhibit the viral cycle. The research focused on the factor known as TRIM5 which, apparently, prevents the virus managing to incorporate itself into the genome of the cell, thus impeding infection.
With the aim of finding out how this factor of restriction functions, the researcher had a four-fold objective for her PhD thesis: identifying and characterising TRIM5 in sheep and goat species; determining a possible restrictive role played by the lentivirus infection; exploring the restriction of the infection by heterologous retrovirus; and investigating, through phylogenetic analysis, the on-going trends and a possible co-evolution between lentivirus and TRIM5 in domestic and wild ruminants.