USU group researching how West Nile Virus does its damage

The number of reported cases of West Nile Virus disease in the United States is rising and before a drug can be developed to cure it scientists have to understand how the virus does its damage. That word from John Morrey, director of the Institute for Antiviral Research and research professor at Utah State University.

Morrey says he and his colleagues are among those working on finding treatments, beginning with discovering exactly which parts of the body are affected and how the virus causes disease and in some cases, death. Morrey says understanding the mechanisms that cause a person to become sick is a complex puzzle to solve, compounded by the fact that people react somewhat differently and develop different symptoms.

He says researchers at the IAR decided about nine years ago to focus their West Nile Virus research on the neurological disease the virus can cause. Even after an infected person has shed the virus, neurological damage is already done and can continue to progress and leave people with life changing health problems.

Currently, doctors can only treat the symptoms of patients with West Nile Virus disease. Morrey says unfortunately there is no known cure. His team is looking at whether drugs used to treat their viral or neurological diseases might be effective against West Nile Virus.

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