Using sinus tissue removed during surgery at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have managed to grow a recently discovered species of human rhinovirus (HRV), the most frequent cause of the common cold, in culture. The researchers found that the virus, which is associated with up to half of all HRV infections in children, has reproductive properties that differ from those of other members of the HRV family. The accomplishments, reported in Nature Medicine on April 10, 2011, should allow antiviral compounds to be screened to see if they stop the virus from growing. The report sheds light on HRV-C, a new member of the HRV family that also includes the well-known HRV-A and HRV-B. Discovered five years ago, HRV-C has been notoriously difficult to grow in standard cell cultures and, therefore, impossible to study. "We now have evidence that there may be new approaches to treating or preventing HRV-C infections," says senior author Dr. James Gern, professor of medicine at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and an asthma expert at American Family Children's Hospital. Future drugs could be especially useful for children and adults who have asthma and other lung problems, Dr. Gern says. Recent studies have shown that in addition to its major role in the common cold, HRV-C is responsible for between 50 percent and 80 percent of asthma attacks. HRV-C is a frequent cause of wheezing illnesses in infants and may be especially likely to cause asthma attacks in children. HRV infections of all kinds also can greatly worsen chronic lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Like other scientists, Dr. Yury Bochkov, a virologist in Gern's lab, was unable to grow HRV-C in standard cell lines.
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