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Why viruses persist

New research suggests a mechanism that may explain how viruses that are considered acute can persist.

Products of viral infection, called defective viral genomes (DVGs), can kick off a molecular pathway that keeps infected cells alive, the researchers discovered. 

The University of Pennsylvania study, published in Nature Communications, used a novel technique to examine the presence of DVGs on a cell-by-cell basis.

Author Carolina B López said: “One of the things the field has known for a long time is that DVGs promote persistent infections in tissue culture. 

“But the question was – how do you reconcile that with the fact that they’re also very immunostimulatory? How can they help clear a virus at the same time as they promote persistence?”

DVGs are produced in infected cells when a virus begins to replicate rapidly, leading to defective versions of itself that contain large deletions. Once thought not to have any biological function, DVGs are increasingly believed to be important components ofviral infections.

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