Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Researchers in Wales have identified a genetic variation responsible for overactive inflammatory immune system responses to viruses.
The team from Cardiff University in Wales found that variation in the Ifitm3 gene plays an important role in controlling the level of inflammatory response triggered by viral infections.
Previous studies showed Ifitm3 influences how sensitive people are to the influenza virus, with a variant form of Ifitm3 making cells more vulnerable to viral infections.
Researchers studied immune cells from mice with and without the variant form of Ifitm3 to learn how the immune system responds to the virus cytomegalovirus.
Researchers found that those with Ifitm3 deficiencies may have an overactive immune response to viral infection and could be helped by the use of a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs along with medication to target the virus. The researchers say results of the study may also be relevant to other viral infections, including influenza.
Roughly, 1 in 400 people worldwide have the variant Ifitm3 gene.
"Now we know that genetic make-up influences how the immune system copes with infections, not only by influencing how the body controls an infection but also by controlling how strongly the body's immune system reacts, we can design therapeutic strategies for individuals who are seriously ill with infections, which are tailored to the individual based on their genetic profile," Dr. Ian Humphreys, a researcher at the Cardiff University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said in a press release.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.