In order to do so, the virus has to find a way to enter the cells of the human body without tripping the alarm, and stay there without notice. It’s how HIV works, and also how viruses in the herpesvirus family, like human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), do their business.

In a new study published in Science Advances, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers show that individual cells in the human body have an armament designed to prevent HCMV from achieving and maintaining this latency, to shine a spotlight on the virus so the immune system knows to fight. But the virus, in turn, has developed ways to thwart these defenses.

“We call it an arms race,” says study leader Rob Kalejta, professor of molecular virology and oncology at UW-Madison. “Virus evolves a mechanism to persist, human cells evolve a way to defeat that mechanism, virus evolves a way to defeat what the cell just evolved.”

The study shows there are potential ways to intervene in that process, says Albright. Its co-lead authors are UW-Madison graduate student Emily Albright and former postdoctoral researcher Song Hee Lee.

HCMV infects people at high rates all around the world. People with compromised or weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable. In newborn babies, the virus can cause deafness, intellectual disability and learning disorders. Other viruses in the herpesvirus family can cause cancer, shingles and mononucleosis. Once people are infected, they will have the virus their entire lives, due to its ability to cycle between latent and active states in the body.

Read More: Sciencedaily

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