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New research aims to shut down viral assembly line
Date:1/11/2011

during assembly of the viral envelope. To establish this, coronaviruses were genetically manipulated to form mutant versions, exhibiting varying degrees of viability. Much of this manipulation focused on domains within the viral genome coding for a distinct structural and/or functional domain of the M protein. Conserved domains, as they are known, contain genetic sequence patterns or motifs that tend to recur across a number of different viruses or within a particular virus type, like catch phrases recurring in different books. These conserved domains are generally involved in functions essential to viral formation, survival or replication, making them an attractive target for therapeutic efforts designed to short-circuit viral assembly.

Viral pathogens like the SARS coronavirus, (along with hepatitis C and influenza), use RNA rather than DNA as their genetic material. In general, such RNA viruses mutate more rapidly than DNA viruses, posing particular challenges to virologists hoping to combat them. They can also acquire alterations that allow them to hop from one species to another. Something like this now appears to be at the root of the SARS outbreak.

"We think that the reservoir for this virus is bats, because a large number of SARS-like viruses have been isolated from bat populations around the world," Hogue says. SARS-CoV was subsequently able to infect a secondary animal host, now believed to be the civet cata mongoose-like creature found in Asia and sometimes used as a food source, particularly in China, where the SARS outbreak originated. Contact with infected civets in the open markets may have caused the initial human cases of SARS, which then rapidly spread human to humanfrom the Guangdong provinces in China to 37 countries.

Viruses that act as respiratory pathogens, including SARS, are highly transmissible from person to person through contact with respiratory droplets that become aerosolized from coughs or sneezes. Viri
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
Joseph.Caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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