Dr Andrew Mason, medical director of liver transplantation at the Ochsner Clinic, New Orleans, USA, has isolated and specifically characterized the new virus, the conference heard.
No viral DNA was found within a cloned sequence of DNA from patients with cirrhosis. This suggested the virus was not a human endogenous virus, Dr Mason said.
"We have started antiviral therapy for treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis"
Dr Andrew Mason
The virus was found to be most closely related to Squirrel Monkey Retrovirus and Human Retrovirus 5, a virus recently identified in patients with connective tissue disorders.
The researchers from New Orleans, collaborating with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, England, said this discovery could open the way to finding the viral causes of similar autoimmune and biliary diseases.
Dr Mason said, "We have already started antiviral therapy in the treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis, with some success. There is potential for vaccination for families at risk."
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