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 viral infection.
The team's findings are to be published in Science on Nov. 14.
Rotavirus is most problematic in infants and young children, who can become severely dehydrated and require hospitalization. Rotavirus causes about 500,000 deaths annually worldwide in children younger than five years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The research, performed in mice, was led by Dr. Andrew Gewirtz and Dr. Benyue Zhang of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State, and included collaborators at Emory University School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Genentech Inc. and the Pennsylvania State University.
The researchers expect the specific method used in their work, using flagellin or the IL-22 and IL-18 proteins it elicits, might be effective against a range of chronic viral infections of the digestive system such as norovirus and hepatitis C virus. The team is now planning studies in humans to test this hypothesis. The general model of activating innate immunity to combat viral infection should prove an effective means of slowing down most any virus and could be a temporary means to deal with a broad range of viral infections until more specific solutions could be developed, Gewirtz said.