Anti-Viral Meds "Shut the Suitcase"
A release from the University of Leeds in the UK reports that researchers there have identified a crucial stage in the lifecycle of simple viruses like polio and the common cold that could open a new front in the war on viral disease.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Stockley is quoted as saying," If we can target this process, it could lead to a completely new class of anti-virals that would be less likely to create resistant viruses than existing drugs, which tend to target individual proteins."
A number of important viruses like the common cold and polio have ribonucleic acid (RNA) instead of DNA as their genetic material. "We realized that the RNA genome must have to be intricately folded to fit into the final container, just like when you pack to go on holiday and need to fold your clothes to fit into the space in your suitcase. It seems that viral RNAs have evolved a self-folding mechanism that makes closing the 'viral suitcase' very efficient. It's as though 'the suitcase and the clothes' work together to close the lid and protect the content."
Professor Stockley added, "The viral RNAs, and only the viral RNAs, can do this trick of folding up to fit as soon as they see the 'suitcase' coming. That's the important thing. If we can interfere in that process we've got a completely novel drug target in the lifecycle of viruses. At the moment there are relatively few antiviral drugs and they tend to target enzymes that the virus encodes in its genome. The problem is that the drugs target one enzyme initially and, within the year, scientists are identifying strains that have become resistant. Individual proteins are extremely susceptible to this mutation. A fundamental process like the one we're looking at opens the possibility of targeting the collective behavior of essential molecules, which could be much less susceptible to developing resistance."