Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The hepatitis A virus is of animal origin

03.11.2015

The hepatitis A virus can trigger acute liver inflammation which generally has a mild course in small children but which can become dangerous in adults. The virus, which is found worldwide, has previously been considered to be a purely human pathogen which at most is found in isolated cases in non-human primates.

An international team of researchers under the direction of the University of Bonn has now discovered in a large-scale study with nearly 16,000 specimens from small mammals from various continents that the hepatitis A virus – like HIV or Ebola as well – is of likely animal origin. The results currently appear in the renowned journal “PNAS".


Ghanaian leaf-nosed bat. Bats are evolutionary old mammals which are extremely important ecologically and are under stringent species protection.

© Photo: Marco Tschapka/University of Ulm

An infection with the hepatitis A virus can trigger acute inflammation of the liver which generally does not cause any symptoms in children and resolves without major complications. "In tropical regions, nearly all young children are infected with the hepatitis A virus and from that time on, they are immune to this disease," says Prof. Dr. Jan Felix Drexler from the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Centre and the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF). By contrast, if adults become infected with the hepatitis A virus, the symptoms can be more serious, and the disease can even have a fatal outcome. The virus has been found to date only in humans and a few non-human primates. Its origins were mysterious.

15,987 specimens from 209 different species of small mammals

Virologists from the University of Bonn Hospital, together with their colleagues from several German and international research institutes worldwide, searched for viruses related to the hepatitis A virus. They investigated a total of 15,987 specimens from 209 different species of small mammals: from rodents to shrews and bats to hedgehogs.

Viruses from these mammals are very similar to the human hepatitis A virus with regard to their genetic properties, protein structures, immune response and patterns of infection. "The seemingly purely human virus is thus most likely of animal origin," says Drexler. “The study enables new perspectives for risk assessments of emerging viruses by investigating functional, ecologic and pathogenic patterns instead of phylogeny only”.

The scientists' evolutionary investigations may even hint at distant ancestry of the hepatitis A virus in primordial insect viruses. "It is possible that insect viruses infected insect-eating small mammals millions of years ago and that these viruses then developed into the precursors of the hepatitis A virus," says the virologist from the University of Bonn Medical Centre.

Small mammals contribute to the preservation of the hepatitis A virus

The researcher assumes that small mammals were important hosts for the preservation and evolution of the viruses. "Otherwise the hepatitis A virus would actually have gone extinct long ago in small human populations due to the lifelong immunity of the persons once infected with it," Drexler reasons.

"However, patients need not fear that they could contract a hepatitis A virus infection through bats or hedgehogs. It has likely been a very long time since humans first contracted the hepatitis A precursor virus from animals – moreover, such incidents are very rare," says the virologist from the University of Bonn Medical Centre.

Publication: Evolutionary origins of hepatitis A virus in small mammals, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America” (PNAS), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1516992112

Contact information:

Prof. Dr. Jan Felix Drexler
Institute of Virology
University of Bonn Medical Centre
German Center for Infectious Disease Research (DZIF)
Tel. ++49-228-28711697
E-Mail: drexler@virology-bonn.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.virology-bonn.de Institute of Virology at University of Bonn Medical Centre
http://www.dzif.de German Center for Infectious Disease Research (DZIF)

Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Big data approach to predict protein structure
27.03.2017 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Weather extremes: Humans likely influence giant airstreams

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>