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Fight It Off

Gut bacteria may be able to help hosts fend off viral infections, according to a paper appearing in Science from Georgia State University's Andrew Gewirtz and colleagues.

In mice, Gewirtz and his colleagues found that treatment with bacterial flagella could prevent rotavirus infection in mice as well as clear chronic infections. For this effect to occur, they say that both the flagellin receptors Toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5) and NOD-like receptor C4 (NLRC4) were needed. The flagella seemed to set off TLR5 activation in dendritic cells that then induced cytokine interleukin-22 (IL-22), which, in turn, led to changes in gene expression in intestinal epithelial cells.

"We were very, very surprised that a bacteria component offered powerful protection against a viral infection," Gewirtz tells NPR's Goats and Soda blog. "The basic thinking before was that bacteria have certain components on their surface that activate the immune system to fight bacteria, not viruses."

He adds that he hopes that these proteins will someday help treat rotavirus infections in developing countries where vaccines like the ones used in the US are less effective. 

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.