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Virus that may stop dying

Monday September 7th, 2009

A common childhood virus may hold the clue to reversing the dying process that follows loss of oxygen, a European conference was told yesterday.

Scientists have shown the outer shell of the astrovirus can halt dying caused by a process known as complement response.

Doctors were celebrating the finding yesterday at the 12th European conference on the problem held in Budapest, Hungary.

The complement process kills large numbers of soldiers on the battlefield, heart attack victims and new-born babies deprived of oxygen.

It means that after a patient is revived, following loss of oxygen, the body's cells continue to die over the following days.

The discovery, made in Virginia, USA, came from an accidental conversation between two researchers working in neighbouring laboratories. One was studying the astrovirus, the other searching for chemicals to stop the complement process.

Researcher Professor LD Britt, of the Eastern Virginia Medical School, USA, said: "Haemorrhagic shock is the leading cause of death in combat trauma and reperfusion injury plays a significant role both in increased mortality and increased brain damage.

"This research could help save the lives of soldiers, as well as the lives of other trauma victims who have been without oxygen for extended periods."

Fellow researcher Dr Kenji Cunnion said: "To find a way to manipulate the complement system pharmacologically has been like a search for the Holy Grail."

The researchers say details of their discovery have been reported in the Journal of Virology and Current Topics in Complement II.

"Human Astrovirus Coat Protein Binds C1q and MBL and Inhibits the Classical and Lectin Pathways of Complement Activation," 12th European Meeting on Complement in Human Disease

Tags: A&E | Europe | Flu & Viruses | North America

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