Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infectious disease caused
by TBE virus and is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick to
humans. TBE can lead to serious brain damages with long-lasting
Annually, approximately 200 Swedes seek medical help due to
TBE. Worldwide, this number reaches around 12,000. At present, there is
no treatment, only certain relief to symptoms can be offered.
‘The protein viperin can prohibit tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) from multiplying in the cell. It also limits the amount of functional viruses that can leave the cells.’
Research at Umea University in Sweden presents a new discovery: the protein viperin can prohibit tick-borne encephalitis
virus (TBEV) from multiplying in the cell. It also limits the amount of
functional viruses that can leave the cells.
"Through the understanding of how the antiviral protein viperin
prohibits TBE virus, we were able to identify two new weaknesses of the
TBE virus that will hopefully be utilized in the future to develop
efficient ways of breaking TBE infection," says Kirstin Vonderstein,
doctoral student at the Department of Clinical Microbiology and author
of the dissertation.
Since viruses use the cell building blocks to multiply and spread to
other cells, the cells have developed mechanisms to recognise and
defend themselves against viruses. A key component in the cell's early
defense mechanism against viral infections is the signal protein
interferon, which is submitted as a warning to adjacent cells. These
cells are then able to produce proteins that protect themselves against
viral attacks. One of the cell protecting proteins is viperin.
Kirstin Vonderstein, together with research colleagues at the Unit
for Virology, has studied how viperin is active in its defense against
TBEV. Research shows that viperin prohibits viral multiplication inside
the cells as well as limits the amount of functional viruses that can
leave the cells. In addition, the researchers found that viperin does
not act on its own, but needs other cell proteins to perform its
"The discovery provides us with an increased understanding of how
this antiviral protein hampers the TBEV and what happens in the cells
when the virus is being fought. Further research is required to
elucidate the antiviral mechanisms of viperin in detail, but our hope is
that this discovery will lead to an efficient drug against TBE in the
long run," says Kirstin Vonderstein.