'Mini-gut model' shows enterovirus activity in the intestines

Paul Basilio, MDLinx | January 31, 2017

Researchers have used immature stem cells to determine how enteroviruses enter into and behave inside the intestine, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Misty Good, MD, and Alexa Bolock examine an image of a 'mini-gut' grown in their lab. Photo courtesy: Washington University School of Medicine.

Investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, and the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, identified the findings after creating a miniature model of the gut in the laboratory.

“This research has the potential for a positive global impact on human health,” said Gary A. Silverman, MD, PhD, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head, Department of Pediatrics, Washington University. “Especially since enteroviruses cause disease in all human populations and age groups.”

 Stem cells from a premature infant’s small intestine were isolated in the study, and researchers created “mini guts” to see how the virus behaves in the intestine. Their model replicates various cell types within the intestinal tissue.

 “This study not only provides important insights into enterovirus infections, but it also provides an important model that could be used to test the efficacy of anti-enterovirus therapeutics in the premature intestine,” said Misty Good, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, and co-senior author of the study.

 The new model revealed that the small intestines are most susceptible to enteroviruses such as echovirus 11 (E11) and coxsackievirus B (CVB), both of which are commonly associated with illness in the neonatal population. E11, the enterovirus most commonly associated with infections in NICU populations, induced significant damage to the mini-guts.

The model also demonstrated that E11 targets certain cells within the GI tract and may facilitate passage of the virus into the bloodstream.

Enteroviruses are responsible for millions of infections worldwide each year. They can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, fomites, or ingestion of contaminated food and water. Symptoms can appear as flu-like, and more serious conditions such as inflammation of the brain or heart, acute paralysis, or death have been reported.

Infants are particularly susceptible to infection.