Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cause of hepatitis A virulence pinpointed


Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have located two genes that give hepatitis A virus (HAV) its virulent properties. The team, led by Suzanne Emerson, Ph.D., also has discovered that deliberately weakened HAV can quickly revert to its naturally occurring, infection-causing form. To be published in the September 1 issue of Journal of Virology, and appearing online this week, these findings indicate that making an improved vaccine for HAV will be a very difficult task.

"As sanitation improves in developing countries, there will be an increased need for inexpensive and easy-to-administer vaccines to prevent hepatitis A, which is transmitted through contaminated food and water," notes Dr. Emerson. HAV is so common in developing countries that almost everyone is infected during childhood (often without becoming noticeably ill) and thereafter is immune to the virus. Improvements in sanitation and water quality, though, make such naturally acquired immunity less likely. Unfortunately, if HAV infection occurs for the first time later in life, it can result in dangerous illness, including severe liver damage.

A vaccine made from killed HAV does exist, but it requires multiple booster shots to be given intramuscularly-an expense and inconvenience that inhibits its use in less developed countries. Scientists at NIAID have been attempting to develop a live, attenuated HAV vaccine. An attenuated vaccine-one made from a deliberately weakened form of the virus-could be given orally in a single dose, a clear advantage to the existing vaccine.

To develop such a vaccine, Dr. Emerson and her coworkers first had to determine which genes give HAV its punch. They compared the genetic make-up of a virulent version of human HAV with that of an attenuated version of the same strain of virus by creating 14 artificial "chimeric" viruses, each of which contained a different combination of genes taken from the parent strains. Monkeys exposed to a virus that contained either of two genes, 2C or VP1/2A, from the virulent parent developed symptoms of hepatitis. When both genes from the virulent parent were present, the disease was markedly more severe. Conversely, chimeras containing mutated forms of 2C and VP1/2A did not cause disease.

Weakening HAV by altering its two virulence-determining genes would seem to be a logical way to produce a hepatitis A vaccine. But when the researchers infected monkeys with just such an attenuated virus, it mutated within those animals, although it did not cause disease. Feces from the animals, however, contained infectious particles that could cause hepatitis in other monkeys.

"Although these results suggest that a live, attenuated HAV vaccine may be difficult to develop, they do help us better understand what controls HAV growth," notes Dr. Emerson. "Ultimately, this knowledge may provide us with a roadmap to a less expensive and more potent killed vaccine that could be used worldwide."

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

Reference: SU Emerson et al. Identification of VP1/2A and 2C as virulence genes of hepatitis A and demonstration of genetic instability of 2C. Journal of Virology. 76 (17), pp. 8551-59 (2002).
Available online at

Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
is a component of the National Institutes of Health,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Anne Oplinger | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>