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NIH-Funded Researchers Discover New Info on Hantaviruses

Human protein associated with asthma plays key role

A human protein associated with asthma is a key part of the explanation to how hantaviruses infect the lungs, sometimes causing a life-threatening pulmonary condition known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), according to researchers.

Prevalent hantaviruses in North and South America (Sin Nombre virus; Andes virus) can recognize the protein, protocadherin-1 (PCDH1), and exploit it to infect the lungs.

The findings from the study, a collaboration among nearly a dozen research groups, appear in a recent issue of Nature. Scientists from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Utah State University, and The Netherlands Cancer Institute led the project. NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was among the entities providing project; funding.

Their study involved creating cells that had no PCDH1 on their surfaces. Those cells were not susceptible to infection by four New World hantaviruses (those found in the Americas). They also investigated precisely how the viruses infect cells in which PCDH1 is present and identified protein residues that appear to facilitate infection.

The researchers plan to seek out additional infection pathways while investigating therapeutics that might prevent New World hantaviruses from exploiting PCDH1.

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