Top picks in Virology by Peter Sommer, PLoS ONE Section Editor

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We asked one of our Virology Section Editors, Peter Sommer, also team head of the Cell Biology of Retroviruses group at the Institut Pasteur Korea for his picks in this field. Not only did he choose 6 articles from those he has edited but he also provided notes on why they were on his list. Please feel free to share these research articles with colleagues:

Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus Persists in the Light Zone of Germinal Centres by Juleff N et al. Persistent infection with foot-and-mouth disease virus (the carrier state) is considered to be a common sequel to both clinical and subclinical FMD in ruminants. The mechanism(s) employed by the virus to persist and evade immune elimination from the host as well as the site of viral persistence in vivo is not well defined. This work provides good evidence that intact, non-replicating FMDV particles trapped by immune cells called follicular dendritic cells (FDCs) within the germinal centres of lymph nodes persist for at least 38 days in carrier animals, a pattern previously also described for Human/Simian Immunodeficiency Virus infection. While the ability to maintain antigens on FDCs is likely beneficial for induction and maintenance of secondary antibody responses, the follicular network could also become a reservoir of infectious material that is maintained for long periods.

Counteracting Quasispecies Adaptability: Extinction of a Ribavirin-Resistant Virus Mutant by an Alternative Mutagenic Treatment by Perales C, Agudo R, and Domingo E. This manuscript addresses potential solutions for limitations of the concept of lethal mutagenesis as a novel antiviral strategy. The study design appears flawless and the experimental section is excellent. The results suggest that combination therapy would be more effective in treating virus with mutagens to avoid resistance mutations, and to combat resistant viruses if they do arise. This supports further efforts to explore the potential of lethal mutagenesis, or virus extinction promoted by mutagen-induced elevation of mutation rates of viruses as a therapeutic concept.

Protein Crystals in Adenovirus Type 5-Infected Cells: Requirements for Intranuclear Crystallogenesis, Structural and Functional Analysis by Franqueville L et al. This is an interesting and well argued paper which succeeds in defining the nature of the crystalline inclusions in adenovirus infected cells, an issue that has puzzled people in the field for many years. The manuscript also helps provide a context in which to understand the role that these complexes could play in virus assembly and is therefore certainly a substantial contribution to the field.

Infection of Semen-Producing Organs by SIV during the Acute and Chronic Stages of the Disease by Le Tortorec A et al. This is a study of high scientific standard that tackles a relatively difficult task of elucidating the target cells of SIV/HIV infection in the male genital tract (MGT). Despite some evidence that the MGT may constitutes a relevant reservoir in HIV infected patients, systematic investigations are very limited due to the impossibility of sampling semen-producing organs in HIV+ asymptomatic individuals. The strength of this study lies in exploitation of the animal model to compare changes in the male genital tract during acute and chronic SIV infection. The results show that SIV infection of the macaque male genital tract is an early event and that semen-producing organs display differential infection levels and immune responses, which will help elucidate the origin of HIV in semen and may impact on the design of antiretroviral therapies to eradicate virus from semen.

Cross-Protection against Lethal H5N1 Challenge in Ferrets with an Adjuvanted Pandemic Influenza Vaccine by Baras B et al. In this study, an adjuvanted split H5N1 (A/H5N1/Vietnam/1194/04) clade 1 candidate vaccine, shown recently to be safe and immunogenic even at low doses in humans was found to induce intra-subtypic cross-protection against challenge infection with clade 2 H5N1 (/A/Indonesia/5/05) in ferrets. The results suggest that this adjuvanted H5N1 candidate vaccine could be especially useful as a tool for implementing pandemic flu preparedness. The potential impact of this study is obvious and it raises realistic hopes since it is the first candidate vaccine already shown to be safe and immunogenic in humans in which cross-protection against virus from a distinct clade was demonstrated in ferrets, a widely accepted animal model.

Impact of HIV on Cell Survival and Antiviral Activity of Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells by Meyers JH et al. This paper provides novel insights into the function of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) in the context of untreated HIV patients with “low” vs. “high” viremia. The suggestion that there may be a causal association between pDC function and the rate of disease progression should be read with interest not only by immunologists who are interested in pDC function but also by HIV virologists and clinicians focused on the underlying mechanisms that dictate the pace of HIV disease progression.

Peter Sommer was good enough to finish by telling us why he supports Open Access and serves as a Section Editor:

“(T)he major point for me is to support the ‘Open Access Idea’. Every scientist who has experienced limited access to publications (maybe because their institute or university has a limited budget) will know what I am talking about. And still today, even though I am in the lucky situation to profit from the support of Institut Pasteur, I sometimes see an interesting abstract in Medline, but have no chance to look deeper into the paper immediately and this may sometimes delay progress.”

This intriguing Cricket Paralysis Virus image was created by writing a script to parse out virus 3D models from the VIPERdb project. It appears courtesy of Groovelock who made it available on Flickr under a Creative Commons Licence.

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