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Contact: Vicki Cohn, (914) 740-2100, vcohn@liebertpub.com
Progress in Understanding Protective Immunity Against Flaviviruses is Documented in Viral Immunology

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New Rochelle, NY, July 14, 2010—Recent advances in flavivirus research that could lead to protective vaccines and better diagnostic tests and surveillance methods for human pathogens such as dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus, are reported in the current issue of Viral Immunology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.The entire issue is available free online.

The family of flaviviruses is comprised of a complex group of related pathogens that can cause from mild illness to severe disease with neurological involvement and hemorrhagic complications. The viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes or ticks. A flavivirus produces only a small number of proteins, but it is not well understood what role each protein plays in causing human disease and how these proteins stimulate a protective immune response when the virus infects a human host. Whereas vaccines are available for some flaviviruses, an effective immunologic strategy has not yet been developed for others.

This issue of Viral Immunology contains a series of articles that present the findings of a workshop sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) that focused on progress in identifying flavivirus epitopes. An epitope is the part of viral protein that is recognized by the human immune system.

Alison Augustine and colleagues from NIAID, University of Massachusetts Medical School (Worcester), School of Public Health of the University of California-Berkeley, and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (Oklahoma City), summarize the results of the workshop. They discuss how a better understanding of the mechanisms by which flavivirus epitopes stimulate T-cell and B-cell immune responses could shed new light on host-pathogen interactions and contribute to the development of improved vaccines and diagnostics, in the article entitled, “NIAID Workshop on Flavivirus Immunity.”

Kerrie Vaughan and coauthors from La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology (California), searched the medical and scientific literature to inventory the available immune epitope data for flaviviruses and reported on all known epitope structures and associated immune reactivity. In the article, “Meta-analysis of All Immune Epitope Data in the Flavivirus Genus: Inventory of Current Immune Epitope Data Status in the Context of Virus Immunity and Immunopathology,” the authors report that of the nearly 1,200 epitopes identified, most belong to the dengue virus group, followed by West Nile virus and yellow fever virus.

“The disease burden imposed by flaviviruses is increasing significantly in the world today and there is an urgent need to find a solution to this escalating problem.  These two articles provide crucial background information to scientists that will be essential for future research efforts, especially in the realm of vaccine development,” says David L. Woodland, PhD, Editor-in Chief of Viral Immunology and President and Director of the Trudeau Institute, Inc. (Saranac Lake, NY).