Protein breakthrough brings dengue and West Nile drugs closer to reality
A team of scientists has found an important aspect of how both the dengue virus and West Nile virus replicate in their host cells and how they manipulate the immune system as they spread, thus taking a step towards control of health investigation.
Dengue fever and West Nile fever are mosquito-borne diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide each year, but there is no vaccine against either of the related viruses.
Researchers led by Janet Smith of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute describe for the first time the structure of a protein that helps the viruses replicate and spread infection.
Smith said that seeing the design of this key protein provides a target for a potential vaccine or even a therapeutic drug.
The protein, NS1, is produced inside infected cells, where it plays a key role in replication of the virus. NS1 is also released into the bloodstream, where it may help disguise the infection from the patient's immune system and may play a role in the hemorrhage that is seen in severe dengue virus infection.
'Having the structure of NS1 is a huge advance in understanding, and using, the protein to our advantage,' said Kuhn, who led the Purdue University team involved in the work.
'Understanding how the protein is designed provides an easier pathway to understanding its roles in the virus life cycle. We now know which portions of the protein to target in drug development to shut it down and stop the progression of infection.'
The study is publication in the journal Science.
(Posted on 07-02-2014)