From the flu to COVID-19 and the measles, it is well understood how viruses lead to disease but scientists are only now discovering the broad role viral infections play in the development of other health conditions, often emerging years or even decades after the initial infection.
Several new studies have shed light on links between diseases not previously thought to be related to viral infections. An association between hepatitis C and schizophrenia is offering insights into the influence of viral infections on the brain. A new study, published in the Nature journal Oncogene and led by researchers from the University of York, has discovered a new link between bladder cancer and infection with a common virus.
“Our findings alter our understanding of the causes of bladder cancer by showing that BK virus infections are a risk factor for bladder cancer because they force bladder cells to use APOBECs that damage their DNA,” said Simon Baker, lead author on the study.
The idea of “Slow virus diseases”, viral infections that result in the progressive destruction of neurological processes, goes back to the mid-20th century, with many scientists suggesting persistent herpes infections were the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s early days for many of these research pathways investigating the relationship between viral infections and chronic diseases but it is becoming increasingly clear we may have underestimated the long-term effects of acute viral infections.