Newer preventive treatment for post transplant infection by
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A potential new treatment to protect immunosuppressed patients from human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has been discovered by scientists. Their study shows that certain epigenetic inhibitors expose and help to destroy dormant HCMV infections, which often reactivate to cause serious illness and death in these vulnerable groups.

Reactivation of HCMV from latency is a major health consideration for recipients of stem-cell and solid organ transplantation. The study, published in the journal PNAS, describes how scientists exposed HCMV-infected blood samples to a wide range of epigenetic inhibitors - drugs widely used in cancer treatment - hoping to prompt the latent virus to produce proteins or targetable antigens that are visible to our immune system.

They discovered that a particular group of these drugs, 'bromodomain inhibitors', successfully reactivated the virus by forcing it to convert its hidden genetic instructions into protein. This then enabled T-cells in the blood samples to target and kill these previously undetectable infected cells.

The study is the first to identify the involvement of human host bromodomain (BRD) proteins in the regulation of HCMV latency and reactivation but also proposes a novel 'shock and kill' treatment strategy to protect transplant patients.

The author said "This would be the first type of treatment to reduce HCMV infection levels pre-transplant in order to lower the chances of virus reactivation during immune suppression after transplantation. Our findings could lead to thousands of lives being saved every year."