Research Highlight

The virus-platelet tussle

Biplab Das

doi:10.1038/nindia.2008.210 Published online 26 May 2008

New research can now explain how the dengue virus wreaks havoc on platelets, blood cells that play a crucial role in coagulation. Researchers have discovered how exposure to dengue virus destroys the cellular architecture of platelets reducing their number abnormally. The insight may open up new avenues to control dengue-associated complications such as decrease in platelet numbers.

Dengue fever leads to blood abnormalities like bleeding, disrupted formation and of blood cells and capillary leaks. But, the interaction between platelets and dengue virus was unexplored.

The researchers took human venous blood containing platelets and exposed them to a dengue 2 virus isolate (Tr1751) for 30 minutes. Platelets exposed to human Japanese Encephalitis virus were used as controls.

Images showed that exposure to dengue 2 virus caused distinct changes in the membrane surface of platelets compared to control ones. Membranes of the dengue 2 virus showed protrusions and significant pitting with micropits around 300 to 500 nanometre deep, distinct changes like filopodia (rod-like cell surface projections) and evidence of microparticle release.

"These results show that direct platelet activation by the virus may be an early factor that contributes to bleeding abnormalities in severe dengue cases," says lead researcher Atanu Basu. Exploring the cellular and molecular basis of this interaction might help development of therapeutic agents to manage dengue-associated decrease in platelet numbers.


  1. Ghosh, K. et al. Imaging the interaction between Dengue 2 virus and human blood platelets using atomic force and electron microscopy. J. Electron Microsc. doi:10.1093/jmicro/dfn007 (2008)