Augmenting our own Defenses Against Viruses

The race for a COVID 19 therapy reflects the state of viral pharmacology.  We may have tons of antibiotics and a good number of antivirals, but conventional medicine does not offer many effective antivirals.  The world is waiting anxiously for a COVID cure, but research has been longing for years for effective antivirals against many other life-threatening viruses without much success.  Now researchers believe they are a step closer to a better counterattack to an old viral foe called rotavirus.

Rotavirus may seem minor, causing only diarrhea, but for infants, especially in the third world without adequate medical access, this virus can all too often lead to dehydration and death.

This team worked with our immune system’s own tools to counter rotavirus infection in mice.  They discovered benefits from treating the mice with interleukin 18 and interleukin 22.  These are cytokines, or immune messengers, which are produced by cells in response to bacterial appendages.

Cytokines are proteins made by the immune system to send a message from one cell to another.  They bind receptors on other cells and triggers some type of response or change in the receiving cell.

When the researchers administered both IL 18 and IL 22 to the mice who were infected with the rotavirus, the intestinal epithelium extruded the virus faster, quickly eradicating the infection.  The IL 18 triggered cell death of the cells that were infected by the virus.  The IL 22 forced the finger like villi of the intestinal walls to push out the virally infected cells, keeping them from growing deeper.  This worked even when the mice possessed a compromised immune system.

The researchers are hoping that this or a similar mechanism of therapy can be used in other viral infections.  If they can harness our immune system’s own tools against an infection without causing side effects, maybe we can better treat viral diseases which otherwise do not have good antiviral therapies.  The downside is that biologic therapies like interleukins tend to be more costly.  Hopefully, others in the functional medicine and natural worlds will look to natural stimulators of IL 18 and IL 22.  If a safe and effective, yet cheaper alternative could be found in an herb, many more could benefit without the expense. That is how we can help more and more people live a healthier more abundant life.


Original Article:

Zhan Zhang, Jun Zou, Zhenda Shi, Benyue Zhang, Lucie Etienne-Mesmin, Yanling Wang, Xuyan Shi, Feng Shao, Benoit Chassaing, and Andrew T. Gewirtz. IL-22–induced cell extrusion and IL-18–induced cell death prevent and cure rotavirus infection. Science Immunology, 2020 DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abd2876


Thanks to Science Daily:

Georgia State University. “Biomedical sciences researchers find new way to prevent and cure rotavirus, other viral infections.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201002141910.htm>.

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