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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short single-stranded non-coding RNA sequences that posttranscriptionally regulate up to 60% of protein encoding genes. Evidence is emerging that miRNAs are key mediators of the host response to infection, predominantly by regulating proteins involved in innate and adaptive immune pathways. miRNAs can govern the cellular tropism of some viruses, are implicated in the resistance of some individuals to infections like HIV, and are associated with impaired vaccine response in older people. Not surprisingly, pathogens have evolved ways to undermine the effects of miRNAs on immunity. Recognition of this has led to new experimental treatments, RG-101 and Miravirsen-hepatitis C treatments which target host miRNA. miRNAs are being investigated as novel infection biomarkers, and they are being used to design attenuated vaccines, e.g., against Dengue virus. This comprehensive review synthesizes current knowledge of miRNA in host response to infection with emphasis on potential clinical applications, along with an evaluation of the challenges still to be overcome.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Immunol

Publication Date





biomarkers, epigenetics, infection, microRNAs, vaccines