Inhibiting IL-10 reduced and eliminated the virus, while stimulating OX40 decreased viral load.

Researchers showed that cytomegalovirus (CMV) in the salivary glands can be reduced and in some cases, eliminated through the use of antibodies to enhance the disease-fighting power of the immune system. The team’s findings, based on studies in mice, may have implications for chronic virus infections such as hepatitis and HIV.

In the study, the scientists used an antibody to block the action of the IL-10 protein in the salivary glands of mice by inhibiting binding of IL-10 to its receptor. “IL-10 is a messenger molecule which suppresses the protective T-cell response that would normally attack the cytomegalovirus,” explains Michael Croft, Ph.D., associate member at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology. “By blocking the ability of the IL-10 molecule to bind to its receptor, then you allow these T cells to do their job and reduce or eliminate this virus.”

The scientists got a stronger result by obstructing the IL-10 receptor. “It significantly reduced the virus load in all the animals and in 50% of them it completely eliminated it,” Dr Croft remarks.

The investigators also tested a second approach, which used a stimulator antibody in mice to boost the action of the OX40 protein, continues Dr. Croft. OX40 helps T cells replicate more quickly, thus building the body’s ability to more effectively battle the virus.

The OX40 treatment also reduced the virus load, Dr. Croft says, but did not eliminate it in any of the animals.

The team’s findings were published online this week in Experimental Medicine.

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