New Delhi: Scientists have found how mosquito-transmitted viruses, including dengue and Zika, hijack host cells to promote their own reproduction. The research, published recently in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, paves the way for developing new therapeutics for these infections with no or very limited treatments. Michaela Gack, Scientific Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Florida Research and Innovation Center said,
Our findings bring us one step closer to understanding and treating currently untreatable mosquito-transmitted pathogens, which are an ever-increasing threat to global human populations. Our commitment to studying viral pathogens and host enzymes in novel ways may ultimately help us develop new, effective treatments to prevent future threats to human health.
Viruses cannot survive on their own. While they contain their own genetic material, they don’t carry all the genes or factors they need to live and reproduce. That is why viruses infect hosts — they hijack mammalian cells to turn them into virus-making factories.
To take control of the infected host cell, the Zika virus, for example, hijacks several proteins inside the cell for its efficient replication.
Humans have many enzymes that “tag” proteins with other molecules allowing them to function properly.
Since the Zika virus is missing certain molecules necessary for its reproduction, it has evolved to utilize a human enzyme called KAT5γ (an acetyltransferase) which helps the virus to amplify its RNA genome in viral replication complexes.
The discovery of KAT5γ’s critical role in virus replication is the key first step in beginning to design inhibitory molecules to stop viral replication and treat infection. The study’s second author Cindy Chiang from Cleveland Clinic, US further explains,
Viruses mutate so much that drugging them directly might lose effectivity over time—this is what is known as antiviral drug resistance. Human proteins don’t change rapidly. Targeting the host’s KAT5γ protein should be much more effective in the long term to treat these viruses.
The study suggests that creating drugs targeting the human KAT5γ enzyme might help target not only Zika but also several other mosquito-transmitted flaviviruses.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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