Stopping the Spread of a Virus

According to a recent study by Princeton University, the hepatitis E virus (a liver virus that has been increasingly apparent in Europe) may be treated through a “weak spot” in its process of spreading between cells. As discovered in class, viruses inject either their DNA or RNA into a bacterium or cell in order to change the infected source’s replicative process, so that the virus may make copies of itself. Viruses may only reproduce within a host cell and viruses require the enzymes and materials of the cell to reproduce. In the case of hepatitis E, the virus infects a cell by injecting its viral RNA into a liver cell, which then codes for viroporins (a protein that creates holes in the cell membrane for easy transport of ions and infected particles).The virus undergoes the lytic cycle, which usually results in cell death for the creation of more viruses. Researchers suggest that the virus may not be able to escape from infected cells, in order to spread its infection, without the use of viroporins. Researchers discovered that a section of the virus’s RNA (open reading frame 3 (ORF3)) contains the information that creates the viroporins. Based on the fact that the protein collects on the endoplasmic reticulum and forms small ion channels, the study determined that the ORF3 protein most likely has the ability to exist across the entire cell membrane. By creating a drug that could target the viroporins and prevent the virus from releasing its pieces, then the body may gather more time to create an autoimmune response. The necessity of the ion transport to the cell still requires some research; however, suspicions point to the idea that the cell explodes when flooded with too many ions.

The importance of such a discovery appears in the fact that many treatments for hepatitis E do not directly correlate to the virus. Even though the disease is not very common in the United States, the virus has continued to grow within Europe as a result of a consumption of undercooked meats or contaminated water. Like many viruses, symptoms may vary between mild symptoms such as fever to more severe consequences such as death. According to the World Health Organization, there is a one in four chance that a woman in a later portion of pregnancy may lose her child as a result of the virus. In all, it is imperative that such research continues in assurance that this disease, and others that function in a similar manner, may not occur as frequently nor cause such negative conditions.

The recent event relates to the current unit in class based on information gained over virus cycles and the process of change in the genetic material of a bacterium or cell. The researchers used known information about the transfer of genetic materials between a virus and a host cell in order to determine the portion of RNA that affects the movement of the new viruses. Additionally, the existence of the protein that creates the viroporins relates to the class’s knowledge over the process of transcription and translation of the viral RNA to create ORF3. Overall, the information gained over the replication of viruses and the formation of RNA and proteins remains imperative for the understanding of the internal processes of disease and preventative measures against illness.


About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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