A Hybrid Virus is Evading
Two common respiratory viruses can fuse to form a hybrid virus capable of evading the human immune system, and infecting lung cells – the first time such viral cooperation has ever been observed.
Researchers believe the findings could help to explain why co-infections can lead to significantly worse disease for some patients, including hard-to-treat viral pneumonia.
Each year, about 5 million people around the world are hospitalised with influenza A, while respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the leading cause of acute lower respiratory tract infections in children under five years old, and can cause severe illness in some children and older adults.
Although co-infections – where a person is infected with both viruses at the same time – are thought to be relatively common, it was unclear how these viruses would respond if they found themselves inside the same cell.
“Respiratory viruses exist as part of a community of many viruses that all target the same region of the body, like an ecological niche,” said Dr Joanne Haney from the MRC-University of Glasgow centre for virus research, who led the study.
“We need to understand how these infections occur within the context of one another to gain a fuller picture of the biology of each individual virus.”