Not all viruses are created equal. In liver transplant patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, only viruses that can dodge the immune response invade the new liver, according to a study published on August 16 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine (www.jem.org).
Chronic HCV infection is the leading indication for liver transplantation in the US. But installing a new liver does not cure disease; in fact, HCV infects the transplanted liver in nearly all patients. However, only a subset of the viruses present prior to transplantation show up in the new organ, according to a study lead by Francoise Stoll-Keller and Thomas Baumert at the University of Strasbourg in France. Compared to many of their pre-transplant brethren, the viruses that invaded the new organ infected liver cells more readily and were impervious to the antibodies that normally block infection.
In most patients, the post-transplant viruses had mutations in one region of the surface protein the virus uses to infect cells. Blocking this region may thus provide a new way to prevent reinfection after liver transplant.
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The Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM) is published by The Rockefeller University Press. All editorial decisions on manuscripts submitted are made by active scientists in conjunction with our in-house scientific editors. JEM content is posted to PubMed Central, where it is available to the public for free six months after publication. Authors retain copyright of their published works and third parties may reuse the content for non-commercial purposes under a creative commons license. For more information, please visit www.jem.org.
Fafi-Kremer, S., et al. 2010. J. Exp. Med. doi:10.1084/jem.20090766.