A rare mutation that nearly killed a young girl has revealed insights into the common cold.
Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases conducted a genetic analysis of a child who had been laid low by repeated bouts of rhinovirus (the virus that causes colds) and influenza infections severe enough to place her on life support. By combing through her genome, they found a single mutation that they say obstructed her body’s natural disease-fighting pathway.
This particular patient…had a mutation that prevented her cells from recognizing and responding to rhinovirus, allowing it to proliferate throughout her body unchecked.
Researchers were already aware that the misbehaving protein — called MDA5 — was involved with signaling the immune system when a virus began to spread, but their findings help to pin down an explicit link to rhinovirus infections. It gives us more insight into how the common cold is contracted and spreads through the body, which is helpful, given that we still don’t have an effective means of preventing the virus. Although colds aren’t normally seen as a serious disease, they can be deadly for individuals with asthma, COPD and other lung diseases, as well as the elderly.
[Read the full study here (behind paywall)]
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