The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a common virus that is found all over the world and can cause mononucleosis and other diseases in people with compromised immune systems. The John Cunningham virus (JC virus) is another common virus with up to 90% of adults in the U.S carrying the virus. However, most do not have any symptoms or illnesses with the virus, but those with suppressed immune systems (people with AIDS or taking immunosuppressive medications) can develop illnesses due to the JC virus.
In susceptible people, the JC virus can infect brain cells and cause an often fatal disease called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). The JC virus can be found in CD19+ and CD34+ B lymphocytes of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). A research study showed that the ability of the JC virus to survive and cause disease in the brain is made possible by DNA recombination (joining of DNA segments) between it and EBV. The study involved the use of cerebrospinal fluid from patients with and without MS who do or do not take immunosuppressive agents.
DNA was extracted and amplified (multiplied) using primers (short DNA pieces) to start the DNA amplification. One of the primers recognized EBV DNA and the other recognized JV virus DNA. The amplified pieces of DNA were visualized, and the expected DNA segment representing a recombination of the two viruses was found in the samples from patients with MS, but not in those who did not have MS. Higher levels of recombined DNA were found in samples from patients with MS treated with an immunosuppressive.
The study results showed that two completely different classes of viruses can interchange and recombine their DNA in cells that contain the two viruses. The JC virus-EBV recombination helps the JC virus to gain a foot hold to survive and cause disease. This information can help gain insight into the ability of other virus classes to cause disease. Having this knowledge can be used to study the causes and discover possible effective treatments in cases where one virus can help another enhance its disease-causing ability.
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Wortman, Margaret J. et al. "Opportunistic DNA Recombination With Epstein-Barr Virus At Sites Of Control Region Rearrangements Mediating JC Virus Neurovirulence". N.p., 2016. Print.