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A Cardiff University-led team of researchers has found a gene variant that appears to govern the extent of the inflammatory response to infection, UPI reports.

Cardiff's Ian Humphreys and his colleagues report in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that, in a mouse CMV model of infection, the IFN-induced transmembrane protein 3 (IFITM3) gene promotes antiviral cellular immunity. Variants in IFITM3 have previously been linked to sensitivity to the flu virus.

Mice with the gene variant, meanwhile, had elevated cytokine levels, especially of Il-6. This and other experiments suggested to the researchers that IFITM3 doesn't affect viral replication, but limits the production of cytokines like a "rheostat of antiviral immunity" to influence infection response.

According to UPI, about one in 400 people have IFITM3 gene variants and the immune systems of people with IFITM3 deficiencies might overreact to viral infections.

"Now we know that genetic make-up influences how the immune system copes with infections, not only by influencing how the body controls an infection but also by controlling how strongly the body's immune system reacts, we can design therapeutic strategies for individuals who are seriously ill with infections, which are tailored to the individual based on their genetic profile," Humphreys says in a statement.