Vital virus molecule could lead to cure dengue fever

December 12th, 2008 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Dec 12 (IANS) A small molecule produced by all viruses could open the way to the development of potential cure for west Nile virus and dengue fever. A team led by Alexander Khromykh, associate professor at Queensland University, identified the molecule called subgenomic noncoding ribonucleic acid (sfRNA), part of the virus genome, which also controlled the host’s response to viral infection.

“To develop new and effective antiviral strategies, we have to know as much as possible about the virus, or virus family, that we are fighting,” Khromykh said.

“As sfRNA is produced by all flaviviruses we tested so far, targeting it with an antiviral therapy may be effective for the whole range of flaviviruses.

“By using reverse genetic engineering we were able to generate viruses that do not produce this sfRNA and showed that these engineered viruses are no longer able to kill their hosts or elicit disease symptoms.

“These engineered viruses offer great potential as vaccine candidates as they are expected to elicit an antiviral immune response similar to the normal virus infection without causing a disease,” Khromykh.

Khromykh said by studying mice infected with these engineered West Nile viruses, the team learned more about how the body attempts to combat a flavivirus infection, according to Queensland release.

The part of the virus the infected cells in the body are unsuccessful in destroying forms the sfRNA, which helps the virus to kill cells and cause potentially deadly diseases, he said.

“We identified sfRNA as a potential antiviral target for the large group of medically important viruses,” Khromykh said.

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