Since the 1950's scientists have thought of the body's bacteria as helpers in fighting off infection by out-crowding potential pathogens. But recent research with the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) and a poliovirus show that some viruses rely on an interaction with the bacteria of the gut to produce an infection. In the case of MMTV, Tatyana Golovkina and colleagues at the University of Chicago in Illinois have shown that the virus covers itself with bacteria molecules present in the host's gut, and those molecules interact with TLR4 to establish an infection.
Julie Pfieffer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas reports similar findings in mice infected with poliovirus. Poliovirus expression in humans requires the presence of a human poliovirus receptor (PVR) and those PVR-transgenic mic susceptible to poliovirus infection by forced immunodeficiency where then tested. Some were untreated, and others were given an antibiotic treatments to decreased the intestinal bacteria by a millionfold. The mortality of the untreated mice (with bacteria) was twice that of the antibiotic-treated mice.
These findings are interesting because they chance the way we can think about the infectivity of certain viruses that replicate in the gut - possible applications for prophylactic treatments?
Julie Pfieffer's research with poliovirus
Article in Science Magazine