Although they are not often heard of, reoviruses cause disease in multiple animal hosts. Rotaviruses, for example, commonly cause diarrhea in young children, a disease which is often deadly in developing countries. Unfortunately, there are no antivirals that are effective against reoviruses.
When a cell detects a viral infection, its first response is to shut down its protein-making machinery so that the virus can’t use it to reproduce itself. Researchers in the Parker lab work with reoviruses that infect mammals, viruses which have evolved an ingenious way of overcoming this cellular response. Reoviruses form viral “factories” inside cells. They make a gooey compartment that sequesters away the cellular protein-making machinery, effectively allowing the virus to corner the market on protein production. Recently, the Parker group identified the two viral proteins that form these blob-like factories.
Parker’s work illuminates this poorly understood viral strategy. The more we learn about these viruses, the more likely we are to eventually cure these serious viral infections in humans and animals.