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Portion of the virus that causes pink eye isolated


A friend and mother of three young children recently canceled our Friday night plans because, as she put it, "We've had an outbreak of pink eye and the entire household is being quarantined."

My first thought was "Ewww!" Even after she and her progeny received a clean bill of health, I was careful about what I touched at her house for (irrational) fear of contracting conjunctivitis. Because - let's face it - pink eye is the scarlet letter of minor infections: The sniffles get you sympathy, but pink eye makes you a (temporary) pariah.

Unfortunately, parents and people who work with children can find pink eye difficult to avoid. Approximately 1 in 8 students in the U.S. develops pink eye each year, according to data from 2007, making it one of the main causes of missed school.

But advances are being made in the fight against pink eye. A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary have determined what part of the pink eye virus causes inflammation, a finding that could lead to a better treatment for the condition. MSN reports:

Scientists used a new model to identify what part of the pink eye virus (adenovirus keratitus) caused the inflammation familiar to people suffering from the condition.

In tests on mice with pink eye, the scientists found that the protein coat of the virus (viral capsid) induces inflammation. They also determined that inflammation could be blocked by a peptide containing components of the same protein coat.

Photo by polygrams

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