Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Could Kennel Cough Be Good for Humans?

One of the viruses thought to cause kennel cough in dogs is called parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5 for short).
A Representation of the PIV5 Virus
We humans are immune to it. If we get the virus, our bodies promptly destroy it, as well as any other pathogen (such as malaria or HIV) that happens to be along for the ride.

The ride-along pathogen is destroyed--but now our bodies recognize it and can clobber it if it shows up again.

That's the theory, anyway. The idea of using a virus as a delivery mechanism for a vaccine isn't new--but with most viruses, our bodies destroy the virus and its ride-along pathogen so quickly that we don't gain any immunity.

PIV5 seems to be different from the viruses that have been previously tried. Scientists at the University of Georgia have been experimenting with it for 15 years and have achieved promising results with mice. Immunity to the virus does not seem to limit its effectiveness in either mice or humans.
Biao He, Principal Investigator for the UGA Study
If the Georgia scientists are right about its potential, this canine virus could open the way for vaccines against a whole host of diseases that have previously been difficult or impossible to treat.