Marek’s disease: researchers find fat is crucial for virus infection

Scientists at The Pirbright Institute have demonstrated that production and storage of fat is required for Marek’s disease virus (MDV) replication in chickens. Their research identifies new pathways that are involved in the development of the disease; they hope their findings will lead to control strategies to reduce virus spread.

Marek’s disease is a major threat to the poultry industry, with losses relating to the disease estimated to be up to $2 billion worldwide. The virus is highly contagious and causes atherosclerotic plaque formation.

Published in Journal of Virology, the researchers identified chemical inhibitors that disrupted two different but connected fat production pathways, which significantly reduced virus replication. Although these inhibitors helped the team to identify the cellular mechanisms that the virus disrupts during its infection cycle, they would not be suitable for antiviral development due to their side effects and potential transfer to eggs and meat.

Dr Shahriar Behboudi, Head of the Avian Immunology group at Pirbright, said: “Some viruses exploit host cell machinery to produce components required for their replication and spread. We found that MDV uses the host cells to produce and store fats, contributing to replication of virus and possibly clogging the arteries.”

Article: Replication of Marek’s Disease Virus is dependent on synthesis of de novo Fatty Acid and Prostaglandin E2 by Nitish Boodhoo, Nitin Kamble, Benedikt B. Kaufer, Shahriar Behboudi, published in Journal of Virology, online 10 April 2019, doi: 10.1128/JVI.00352-19

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