Scientists said on Friday they have discovered a brand-new virus strain, which could change the way chronic and childhood kidney diseases are treated. Researchers at the Centenary Institute in Australia noticed some immune-compromised laboratory mice were dying in middle-age, much earlier than their expected lifespan.
Further investigation revealed the mice were succumbing to kidney failure, according to the study published in the journal Cell.
Using leading-edge DNA sequencing technologies, the scientists, including those from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the US, were able to pinpoint the cause as an entirely new parvovirus.
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Parvoviruses are extremely small viruses that are generally benign, except in immune-compromised individuals.
The researchers are currently looking at ways they can translate these findings into clinical practice to improve outcomes for patients with chronic kidney disease.
"This virus is very widespread and has been affecting laboratory mice for 40 years or more, and we have good reason to suspect that both wild and laboratory mice unwittingly harbour it in their colonies," said Ben Roediger from Centenary Institute.
The discovery of this new strain of parvovirus has several important implications for human health, researchers said.
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"This breakthrough provides new insight into virally-driven kidney disease, which is a major problem in kidney transplant patients," Roediger said.
"The virus itself appears to be highly specific to the kidney, which means we can potentially exploit its surface ("capsid") protein to develop gene therapies for inherited childhood kidney disease," he said.