Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Malevolent Designer Does It Again!

Host cell invasion and replication by the influenza virus.

Influenza A virus targets a cGAS-independent STING pathway that controls enveloped RNA viruses : Nature Communications : Nature Publishing Group

For those wingnuts who still believe in intelligent design, the hardest thing to explain, if they ever give much thought to it, is why their putative intelligent (sic) designer so often resembles a malevolent, hate-filled and completely evil designer who hates everything it has designed.

The story goes that this intelligent (sic) designer created the entire Universe just so it could make a tiny planet in a remote part of it (bear with me! I'm not making this up!) so it could make intelligent beings to worship it. So thrilled was it with it's invention, which it had taken an infinite amount of time to think up, that it loves it more than anything.

So, having killed most of them off once in a fit of pique (because it loved them so much!) it promised not to do that again. So instead, it then set about making lots of nasty little things like viruses and bacteria to make them sick and kill them and their children randomly - to show how much it loves them. That's the bizarre story that creationists are required to believe, anyway.

You can imagine then what further mental gymnastics are required for intelligent (sic) design supporters to cling to their fantasy that they have the creator of the Universe as an invisible friend. For example, watch as they try to explain this latest piece of research showing how cleverly (sic) it has now redesigned influenza viruses to overcome the immune systems it created for humans to help them resist the viruses it had designed to make them sick in the first place. The fact that intelligent (sic) design supporters imagine that this is what an intelligent designer would do in the first place should tell you all you need to know about their ability for logical thinking.

A team of researchers at Aarhus University, Denmark, has shown that influenza is able to mask itself, so that the virus is not initially detected by our immune system. Their results have been publish with open access in Nature Communications.

Stimulator of interferon genes (STING) is known be involved in control of DNA viruses but has an unexplored role in control of RNA viruses. During infection with DNA viruses STING is activated downstream of cGAMP synthase (cGAS) to induce type I interferon. Here we identify a STING-dependent, cGAS-independent pathway important for full interferon production and antiviral control of enveloped RNA viruses, including influenza A virus (IAV). Further, IAV interacts with STING through its conserved hemagglutinin fusion peptide (FP). Interestingly, FP antagonizes interferon production induced by membrane fusion or IAV but not by cGAMP or DNA. Similar to the enveloped RNA viruses, membrane fusion stimulates interferon production in a STING-dependent but cGAS-independent manner. Abolishment of this pathway led to reduced interferon production and impaired control of enveloped RNA viruses. Thus, enveloped RNA viruses stimulate a cGAS-independent STING pathway, which is targeted by IAV.

Copyright © the authors. Reprinted under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0).

Influenza viruses are RNA viruses in that their genetic information consists of a strand of RNA. Cells detect infection by a virus by using pattern-recognition receptors on the surface and inside the cell. How this signal is passed into the immune response system depends on the type of virus. With RNA viruses it proceeds via a pathway dependent on the adaptor 'mitochondrial antiviral-signalling' (MAVS) protein, but with DNA viruses, the pathway is via the 'stimulator of interferon genes' (STING). However, for an effective response, the STING pathway is also an important part of the signalling with RNA viruses.

What this paper shows is that influenza viruses have the ability to interfere with this pathway, so inhibiting the host's ability to respond to infection.

In evolutionary terms, the explanation for this state of affairs is readily understood (and entirely predictable) as the result of an evolutionary arms race where the genome of the host benefits from evolving ways to defend itself from viruses and viruses benefit from evolving ways to overcome these defences. These arms races are a standard part of evolutionary theory and will always be found in parasite-host or predator-prey relationships.

Unless a completely new and bizarre definition of 'intelligent' and 'benevolent' are used, however, they are incomprehensible because the supposed intelligent (sic) designer is having to constantly redesign one of a parasite-host pair to overcome its redesign of the other, when even the creation of parasites is difficult to fit in with any notion of benevolence, let alone one of the host-parasite pair being an especially loved creation.

I would expect the best response from a creationist will be to mutter something about ineffable mysteries and grand plans, if there is any recognition at all of the problems examples like this have for their pet fairy tale. Feel free to offer something more intelligent (sic) below if you feel you can do better...

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