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Journal: Viruses


Studying the coevolutionary dynamics between bacteria and the bacteriophage viruses that infect them is critical to understanding both microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning. Phages can play a key role in shaping bacterial population dynamics and can significantly alter both intra- and inter-specific competition among bacterial hosts. Predicting how phages might influence community stability and apparent competition, however, requires an understanding of how bacteria-phage interaction networks evolve as a function of host diversity and community dynamics. Here, we first review the progress that has been made in understanding phage specificity, including the use of experimental evolution, we then introduce a new dataset on natural bacteriophages collected from the phyllosphere of horse chestnut trees, and finally we highlight that bacterial sensitivity to phage is rarely a binary trait and that this variation should be taken into account and reported. We emphasize that there is currently insufficient evidence to make broad generalizations about phage host range in natural populations, the limits of phage adaptation to novel hosts, or the implications of phage specificity in shaping microbial communities. However, the combination of experimental and genomic approaches with the study of natural communities will allow new insight to the evolution and impact of phage specificity within complex bacterial communities.

Concepts: DNA, Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Microbiology, Virus, Genome, Bacteriophage


The outbreak of West Nile virus (WNV) in 1999 in the USA, and its continued spread throughout the Americas, parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, underscored the need for WNV antiviral development. Here, we review the current status of WNV drug discovery. A number of approaches have been used to search for inhibitors of WNV, including viral infection-based screening, enzyme-based screening, structure-based virtual screening, structure-based rationale design, and antibody-based therapy. These efforts have yielded inhibitors of viral or cellular factors that are critical for viral replication. For small molecule inhibitors, no promising preclinical candidate has been developed; most of the inhibitors could not even be advanced to the stage of hit-to-lead optimization due to their poor drug-like properties. However, several inhibitors developed for related members of the family Flaviviridae, such as dengue virus and hepatitis C virus, exhibited cross-inhibition of WNV, suggesting the possibility to re-purpose these antivirals for WNV treatment. Most promisingly, therapeutic antibodies have shown excellent efficacy in mouse model; one of such antibodies has been advanced into clinical trial. The knowledge accumulated during the past fifteen years has provided better rationale for the ongoing WNV and other flavivirus antiviral development.

Concepts: Microbiology, Middle East, Ribavirin, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is a group of viruses that belongs to the Picornaviridae family, which also includes viruses such as polioviruses. EV71, together with coxsackieviruses, is widely known for its association with Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD), which generally affects children age five and below. Besides HFMD, EV71 can also trigger more severe and life-threatening neurological conditions such as encephalitis. Considering the lack of a vaccine and antiviral drug against EV71, together with the increasing spread of these viruses, the development of such drugs and vaccines becomes the top priority in protecting our younger generations. This article, hence, reviews some of the recent progress in the formulations of anti-therapeutics and vaccine generation for EV71, covering (i) inactivated vaccines; (ii) baculovirus-expressed vaccines against EV71; (iii) human intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) treatment; and (iv) the use of monoclonal antibody therapy as a prevention and treatment for EV71 infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Enterovirus, Monoclonal antibodies, Immunology, Influenza, Meningitis


There is growing interest in characterizing the viromes of diverse mammalian species, particularly in the context of disease emergence. However, little is known about virome diversity in aquatic mammals, in part due to difficulties in sampling. We characterized the virome of the exhaled breath (or blow) of the Eastern Australian humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). To achieve an unbiased survey of virome diversity, a meta-transcriptomic analysis was performed on 19 pooled whale blow samples collected via a purpose-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, or drone) approximately 3 km off the coast of Sydney, Australia during the 2017 winter annual northward migration from Antarctica to northern Australia. To our knowledge, this is the first time that UAVs have been used to sample viruses. Despite the relatively small number of animals surveyed in this initial study, we identified six novel virus species from five viral families. This work demonstrates the potential of UAVs in studies of virus disease, diversity, and evolution.


High-throughput transcriptome sequencing allows for the unbiased detection of viruses in host tissues. The application of this technique to immunosuppressed animals facilitates the detection of viruses that might otherwise be excluded or contained in immunocompetent individuals. To identify potential viral pathogens infecting domestic cats we performed high-throughput transcriptome sequencing of tissues from cats infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). A novel member of the Hepadnaviridae, tentatively named domestic cat hepadnavirus, was discovered in a lymphoma sample and its complete 3187 bp genome characterized. Phylogenetic analysis placed the domestic cat hepadnavirus as a divergent member of mammalian orthohepadnaviruses that exhibits no close relationship to any other virus. DNA extracted from whole blood from pet cats was positive for the novel hepadnavirus by PCR in 6 of 60 (10%) FIV-infected cats and 2 of 63 (3.2%) FIV-uninfected cats. The higher prevalence of hepadnavirus viraemia detected in FIV-infected cats mirrors that seen in human immunodeficiency virus-infected humans coinfected with hepatitis B virus. In summary, we report the first hepadnavirus infection in a carnivore and the first in a companion animal. The natural history, epidemiology and pathogenic potential of domestic cat hepadnavirus merits additional investigation.


Coronaviruses are single stranded, positive sense RNA viruses, which induce the rearrangement of cellular membranes upon infection of a host cell. This provides the virus with a platform for the assembly of viral replication complexes, improving efficiency of RNA synthesis. The membranes observed in coronavirus infected cells include double membrane vesicles. By nature of their double membrane, these vesicles resemble cellular autophagosomes, generated during the cellular autophagy pathway. In addition, coronavirus infection has been demonstrated to induce autophagy. Here we review current knowledge of coronavirus induced membrane rearrangements and the involvement of autophagy or autophagy protein microtubule associated protein 1B light chain 3 (LC3) in coronavirus replication.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Virus, RNA, Cell membrane, Organelle, RNA virus


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the etiological agent accounting for chronic liver disease in approximately 2-3% of the population worldwide. HCV infection often leads to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, various metabolic alterations including steatosis, insulin and interferon resistance or iron overload, and development of hepatocellular carcinoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Multiple molecular mechanisms that trigger the emergence and development of each of these pathogenic processes have been identified so far. One of these involves marked induction of a reactive oxygen species (ROS) in infected cells leading to oxidative stress. To date, markers of oxidative stress were observed both in chronic hepatitis C patients and in various in vitro systems, including replicons or stable cell lines expressing viral proteins. The search for ROS sources in HCV-infected cells revealed several mechanisms of ROS production and thus a number of cellular proteins have become targets for future studies. Furthermore, during last several years it has been shown that HCV modifies antioxidant defense mechanisms. The aim of this review is to summarize the present state of art in the field and to try to predict directions for future studies.

Concepts: Oxidative phosphorylation, Reactive oxygen species, Cirrhosis, Hepatitis, Liver, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B


Since time immemorial, phages-the viral parasites of bacteria-have been protecting Earth’s biosphere against bacterial overgrowth. Today, phages could help address the antibiotic resistance crisis that affects all of society. The greatest hurdle to the introduction of phage therapy in Western medicine is the lack of an appropriate legal and regulatory framework. Belgium is now implementing a pragmatic phage therapy framework that centers on the magistral preparation (compounding pharmacy in the US) of tailor-made phage medicines.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicine, Bacteria, Microbiology, Therapy, Phage therapy, Antibiotic, Pharmacy


The apolipoprotein B messenger RNA-editing, enzyme-catalytic, polypeptide-like 3 (APOBEC3) family of cytidine deaminases plays an important role in the innate immune response to viral infections by editing viral genomes. However, the cytidine deaminase activity of APOBEC3 enzymes also induces somatic mutations in host genomes, which may drive cancer progression. Recent studies of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and disease outcome highlight this duality. HPV infection is potently inhibited by one family member, APOBEC3A. Expression of APOBEC3A and APOBEC3B is highly elevated by the HPV oncoproteins E6 and E7 during persistent virus infection and disease progression. Furthermore, there is a high prevalence of APOBEC3A and APOBEC3B mutation signatures in HPV-associated cancers. These findings suggest that induction of an APOBEC3-mediated antiviral response during HPV infection may inadvertently contribute to cancer mutagenesis and virus evolution. Here, we discuss current understanding of APOBEC3A and APOBEC3B biology in HPV restriction, evolution, and associated cancer mutagenesis.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Disease, Mutation, Bacteria, Human papillomavirus, Virus, Infection


Prior to the discovery of the mimivirus in 2003, viruses were thought to be physically small and genetically simple. Mimivirus, with its ~750-nm particle size and its ~1.2-Mbp genome, shattered these notions and changed what it meant to be a virus. Since this discovery, the isolation and characterization of giant viruses has exploded. One of the more recently discovered giant viruses, Samba virus, is a Mimivirus that was isolated from the Rio Negro in the Brazilian Amazon. Initial characterization of Samba has revealed some structural information, although the preparation techniques used are prone to the generation of structural artifacts. To generate more native-like structural information for Samba, we analyzed the virus through cryo-electron microscopy, cryo-electron tomography, scanning electron microscopy, and fluorescence microscopy. These microscopy techniques demonstrated that Samba particles have a capsid diameter of ~527 nm and a fiber length of ~155 nm, making Samba the largest Mimivirus yet characterized. We also compared Samba to a fiberless mimivirus variant. Samba particles, unlike those of mimivirus, do not appear to be rigid, and quasi-icosahedral, although the two viruses share many common features, including a multi-layered capsid and an asymmetric nucleocapsid, which may be common amongst the Mimiviruses.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Organism, Virus, Genome, Microscope, Virology, Brazil