May I Have This Dance?

The measles virus engages the body's cells in a twisted 'ballroom dance'

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mayo Clinic researchers describe how the body becomes infected by the measles virus, one of the leading causes of death among children around the world.

Measles, a highly contagious viral disease, is one of the leading causes of death in young children and currently affects almost 10 million people. As recent as 2008, there were 164,000 measles deaths around the world, nearly 450 deaths every day. Luckily, there is a vaccine to prevent spread of the measles. It has already seen a 78 percent drop in measles deaths since 2000.

The way the measles virus works has been described by Mayo Clinic researchers as "graceful as a ballroom dance." The virus is composed of an outer "envelope" with two proteins, one of which interacts with our body's cell receptors. The other protein attaches the virus to the cell membrane, leading to infection.

This twisted ballroom dance begins when viral genomes pair up with our body's cell receptors, eventually separating into halves, "legs" dancing in one place while the upper body moves on to another partner. The virus causes cell receptors to become unstable, eventually failing completely. They unfold as a result, allowing viral proteins to invade and replicate.

Learning how these viruses work is step one in forging new ways to fight them, according to a member of the Mayo Clinic.

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Review Date: 
January 11, 2011
Last Updated:
January 12, 2011