Equine herpesvirus-1 interacts directly with blood platelets, researchers find

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Equine herpes virus.
Equine herpes virus.

Researchers have found evidence of a direct interaction between equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) and blood platelets, which could well contribute to the formation of blood clots that can cause abortion and neurological disease in infected horses.

Abortion and neurological disease in horses caused by EHV-1 have been linked to the formation of blood clots in placental and spinal cord vessels. However, the precise mechanism for the formation of these clots remains unknown.

The American and German researchers set about testing the hypothesis that EHV-1 activates platelets.

They found evidence suggesting there was a direct platelet-virus interaction which activated the blood cells once sufficient virus had attached to the outer platelet membrance.

“We found that platelets were activated within 10 minutes of exposure to two EHV-1 strains,” Tracy Stokol and her colleagues reported.

They said their findings, reported in the open-access journal, PLOS ONE, suggested that EHV-1-induced platelet activation could contribute to the clots that occurred in infected horses.

They acknowledged that the mechanisms underlying virus-associated blood clotting were poorly understood. “However, virus-induced expression of tissue factor (TF) on monocytes and endothelial cells may be involved.”

They said their work had shown for the first time that EHV-1 associates with and activates platelets.

They speculated that the virus-induced platelet activation could be part of the innate immune response to encourage viral clearance, but could also potentially contribute to the pathologic conditions associated with viral infections, such as clots, inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and spread of infection.

Stokol was joined in the research by four colleagues from New York’s Cornell University – Wee Ming Yeo, Deborah Burnett, Nicole DeAngelis and James Catalfamo – and two researchers from the Free University of Berlin, Teng Huang and Nikolaus Osterrieder.

Stokol T, Yeo WM, Burnett D, DeAngelis N, Huang T, et al. (2015) Equid Herpesvirus Type 1 Activates Platelets. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0122640. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122640.
The full study can be read here.

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