Scientists isolate bug protein to trap viruses

December 16th, 2011 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 16 (IANS) With the help of a bug protein isolated from sewage, scientists have successfully trapped and neutralised enteric viruses — which, surviving for a long time in water, can infect the intestinal tract and cause gastroenteritis.

Researchers from Tohoku and Hokkaido Universities in Japan used activated sludge to find a protein able to bind to these deadly viruses and neutralise them, the journal BMC Biotechnology reports.

Activated sludge is produced during sewage treatment by aerating the sludge and allowing the bugs to breakdown the organic material, according to a statement by the universities.

Researchers isolated the gene coding for one of the GroEL subunits from the sludge. GroEL is a 14 subunit ‘chaperone’ protein. They were able to programme this protein to trap enteric viruses. Even a single enteric virus can infect the intestinal tract.

Study co-author Daisuke Sano from Hokkaido University explained: “Once developed this easy-to-use method could be used to detect low concentrations of viruses in the clinic or environment.”

Clean drinking water is a vital necessity but it still remains out of the reach of 900 million people worldwide, according to UNICEF figures.

Viruses may be present at a very low concentration but still make people ill.

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