Scientists Discover the Secret Weapon of Stomach Viruses

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Medical researchers have identified why certain stomach bugs can cause so some trouble in our tummies, leading to harmful viruses that spread at the speed of lightening.

Recently deduced research, published in the Cell Host & Microbe, revealed that certain stomach infections, for instance rotavirus and norovirus, tend to be far more dangerous and contagious when their virus compounds form a strong cluster. The findings of this ground-breaking research will prove to be extremely beneficial in both, preventing and treating, these harmful stomach viruses with a more effective strategy.

The research was initiated back in 2015, under the guidance of Dr. Nihal Altan-Bonnet, whose focus of work is the host-pathogen connections at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The researchers were initially examining polioviruses for another study, and as they began examining vesicles, clusters of viruses that clump together underneath the protective membranes and their interests were piqued as they began comparing these vesicles with other free-ranging viruses.

They began wondering about the differences between stand-alone viruses, and clustered groups of viruses that attack our body, and this led to an innovative research that has far-reaching benefits. Before this research was conducted, medical experts and scientists believed that individual particles of a virus are the culprits of spreading ailments across the body. It was a fact that was cemented like basic arithmetic.

Stomach Fever Symptoms
Photo Credit: WBUR News

For instance, if there are 1,000 virus particles in your body, you have 1,000 risk factors for your body cells getting infected. However, if you have 20 clusters of viruses in your body, you should have only 20 risk factors of your cells being attacked, isn’t that true?

Not exactly. Back in 2015, the scientists identified that clusters of viruses tend to be far more effective at attacking and infecting cells within the human body. However, these deductions were based on results obtained in a highly controlled, laboratory experiment. Can these results be applicable on actual, real life settings?

This ground-breaking new study reveals that yes, these results do apply in real life settings. The virus particles that tend to form powerful clusters by glomming together emerge as a kind or organism in their own, and then, they start attacking the tissues of the human body with an overpowering dose of the infection or ailment. By forming a cluster, their number increases and they become capable of spreading the infection within the cells with greater force and effectiveness. Altan-Bonnet further explains this mechanism by saying,

By being together, they infect an intestinal cell with a very high number simultaneously. Multiple viruses go inside that same cell.

According to Altan-Bonnet, these clusters of viruses are much like a Trojan horse, they attack the cell as one single, huge unit, and then once they penetrate the cell and get inside, they can attack the cell with greater force. She explains,

They cooperate and compensate for each other’s insufficiencies.

Viruses that form clusters are not only more dangerous and contagious, but more alarmingly, they tend to cause much more severe infections and illnesses as compared to the stand-alone and freestanding viruses. Researchers conducted an experiment with a sample of mice and piglets, and the results revealed that when their bodies were exposed to virus clusters rather than stand-alone viruses, their sickness was much more grave and severe, and the sickness lasted much longer.

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