Following infection with a virus the body mounts innate and adaptive (e.g. antibodies) immune response that are critical in controlling the infection. Immediately following infection, cells begin to respond to viruses by producing a substance called interferon (IFN). The IFN system is an extremely powerful anti-viral response that if it worked as it was supposed to could probably control most, if not all, virus infections in the absence of the adaptive immune response. However, it rarely works correctly because all viruses have ways and means of at least partially circumvent the IFN response. Many viruses do so by producing products (usually proteins) that interfere with different parts of the IFN system. We are particular concerned with better understanding at the molecular level how influenza viruses and paramyxoviruses (e.g. mumps, measles, parainfluenza viruses) circumvent the IFN response. Not only are such studies of fundamental interest they may also point ways forward to better methods of controlling virus infections. For example, by knocking out the ability of a virus to circumvent the IFN response the virus will be weakened and unable to cause disease. However, such weakened (attenuated) viruses if injected will induce an adaptive immune response that will protect from subsequent infection by the natural (virulent) viruses. Thus such IFN-sensitive viruses may be further developed as attenuated virus vaccines. Furthermore, novel anti-viral drugs might be developed which prevent viruses from circumventing the IFN response.
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