A recent study published in PLOS Biology has shown a promising new vulnerability within human viruses which could lead to the development of a new antiviral drug.
This study was possible thanks to the collaboration of researchers in Belgium and Finland.
Enteroviruses and rhinoviruses both fall under the category of picornaviruses. Enteroviruses cause polio, meningitis, and encephalitis whereas rhinoviruses typically cause upper respiratory infections. Unfortunately, there has yet to be an effective antiviral developed to prevent or treat these conditions.
Viruses have to interact with host cells in order to replicate. In order to interact with host cells they typically have to change their shape. Researchers believe that stabilizing a virus so that it cannot change shape will ultimately prevent it from replicating. The scientists in this recent study uncovered a compound that was able to effectively stabilize a model of a picornavirus.
To examine this compound further, and how exactly it was successful in stabilizing the virus, they conducted a cyro-electron microscopy.
These researchers found an indentation on the virus that had never before been discovered. Their compound was lodged there, stopping the virus from being able to change its shape.
These types of viruses have been studied for years and years but this indentation had been missed.
Researching the Compound
This research team is now working to create multiple variants of their compound. The goal is to maximize its activity against a wide range of different viruses.
One of the main challenges to any antiviral is that viruses mutate so quickly that a first effective drug could become ineffective very quickly. However, these researchers believe that the indention they discovered may be so crucial for replication, the compound they create could be pretty close to “resistance-proof.”
Ultimately, this discovery means a new pathway for the design of potential antivirals. Hopefully, we will continue to see encouraging research from this discovery, ultimately leading to effective antivirals against some of these major pathogens.
You can read more about this study and novel findings here.
Citation: Abdelnabi R, Geraets JA, Ma Y, Mirabelli C, Flatt JW, Domanska A, et al. (2019) A novel druggable interprotomer pocket in the capsid of rhino- and enteroviruses. PLoS Biol 17(6): e3000281. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000281