TUN Basic Sciences Assistant Professor publishes article in Nature Communications
TUN Basic Sciences Assistant Professor publishes article in Nature Communications

West Nile Virus Explained

Research published today by Touro University Nevada’s Dr. Amy Stone explains why some people infected with the virus have no symptoms while others suffer life-threatening neuroinvasive disease
Aug 13, 2019

A scientific paper published today in the peer-reviewed journal, Nature Communications, offers an explanation as to why some people infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms while others suffer life-threatening neuroinvasive disease.

Titled “RIG-I-like receptors direct inflammatory macrophage polarization against West Nile virus infection,” the paper is co-authored by Touro University Nevada’s Dr. Amy Stone, a viral innate immunologist whose primary research lies in the cellular immune responses to infectious diseases. The paper is a result of a research study conducted by Stone and co-author, Michael Gale Jr., Ph.D. of the University of Washington.  

Dr. Stone explains that genetics plays a major role in determining a person’s response to West Nile virus. Based on the study, she predicts that a person who, due to genetics, has a strong response to the virus through their RIG-I like Receptors (RLR) is able to fight off the virus and will have mild or no symptoms. Conversely, the study predicts that a person who has a weak RLR response can’t control the virus which can spread to the spinal cord and brain, resulting in meningitis or encephalitis. This study is an early step to understanding how the virus can be countered.

As of Aug. 1, eleven people in Clark County have been infected with West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne infection. According to the Southern Nevada Health District, nine of the 11 patients were diagnosed with the more serious neuroinvasive form of the sickness. The Health District reports that mosquitoes in 32 Clark County ZIP codes have tested positive for the virus.

West Nile virus was only introduced into the United States in 1999, but it quickly spread to 48 states as well as Canada and Mexico. Since then, it's infected hundreds of thousands of people, causing severe illness in about 40,000 and killing more than 1,600.


Touro University Nevada (Touro) is Nevada’s largest school of medicine, the state’s only school of osteopathic medicine and a private, non-profit, Jewish-sponsored institution. Opened in 2004, TUN was established to help address critical needs in health care and education and as a resource for community service throughout the state. Fully accredited by all the requisite bodies, Touro is now home to nearly 1,500 students, in a wide variety of degree programs including osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, education, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and medical health sciences. The university’s Henderson campus includes a multi-specialty health center and a multi-disciplinary Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. For more information on TUN, please visit www.tun.touro.edu or call 702-777-8687.



Lisa Robinson