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Exploiting Genetic Interference for Antiviral Therapy.

Author Information (click to view)

Tanner EJ, Kirkegaard KA, Weinberger LS,


Tanner EJ, Kirkegaard KA, Weinberger LS, (click to view)

Tanner EJ, Kirkegaard KA, Weinberger LS,

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PLoS genetics 2016 05 0512(5) e1005986 doi 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005986

Abstract

Rapidly evolving viruses are a major threat to human health. Such viruses are often highly pathogenic (e.g., influenza virus, HIV, Ebola virus) and routinely circumvent therapeutic intervention through mutational escape. Error-prone genome replication generates heterogeneous viral populations that rapidly adapt to new selection pressures, leading to resistance that emerges with treatment. However, population heterogeneity bears a cost: when multiple viral variants replicate within a cell, they can potentially interfere with each other, lowering viral fitness. This genetic interference can be exploited for antiviral strategies, either by taking advantage of a virus’s inherent genetic diversity or through generating de novo interference by engineering a competing genome. Here, we discuss two such antiviral strategies, dominant drug targeting and therapeutic interfering particles. Both strategies harness the power of genetic interference to surmount two particularly vexing obstacles-the evolution of drug resistance and targeting therapy to high-risk populations-both of which impede treatment in resource-poor settings.

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