Cloning a human virus offers clear vaccine target

Human cytomegalovirus is a clearly defined threat. At its worst the virus triggers congenital malformations in newborns, as well as lethal threats to transplant recipients and AIDS patients--two groups with weakened immune systems. But HCMV until now has been so unstable--undergoing swift mutations outside of the body--that scientists found it hard to get a clear enough picture to develop a vaccine or drug that could fight it properly.

However, that hazy picture was clearly defined in Wales recently after a group of researchers cloned the virus, delivering a stable look-alike. And now the viral Xerox is making the rounds of research labs around the globe as investigators mount new programs that can target it.

"HCMV has by far the largest genome of all viruses affecting humans--consequently it was technically difficult to clone in an intact form in the laboratory," says Cardiff University's Dr. Richard Stanton. "For the first time our work has enabled us to create an exact copy of the virus outside of the body offering a vital step forward in the development of new treatments."

Their findings have been published in the on-line edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

ALSO: Vical, meanwhile, says that its HCMV DNA vaccine proved effective in a mid-stage study, driving its shares up about six percent. Vical tested the vaccine in blood cell transplant patients with weakened immunity. Story

- check out the article from Cardiff
- get the story from WalesOnline
- here's the UPI report