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Iowa State chemists track how drug changes, blocks flu virus
Date:2/1/2008

AMES, Iowa An anti-virus drug attacks influenza A by changing the motion and structure of a proton channel necessary for the virus to infect healthy cells, according to a recently published research paper by two Iowa State University chemists.

Mei Hong, Iowa States John D. Corbett Professor in Chemistry, and Sarah Cady, a graduate student in chemistry, are studying the effects of the antiviral drug amantadine on influenza A. Thats the type of flu bug that most commonly makes people sick and the one that has caused the most serious flu epidemics.

Their findings appear in the Feb. 5 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hong said the findings are particularly important because mutations of the type A virus are resistant to amantadine treatment.

In the last few years, amantadine resistance has skyrocketed among influenza A viruses in Asia and North America, making it imperative to develop alternative antiviral drugs, Hong and Cady wrote in their paper.

To develop those drugs, Hong said researchers first need to understand exactly how amantadine stops the flu virus.

First, some background about how a flu virus infects a healthy cell: A virus begins the process by attaching itself to a healthy cell. The healthy cell surrounds the flu virus and takes it inside the cell through a process called endocytosis. Once in the cell, the virus uses a protein called M2 to open a channel to the healthy cell. Protons from the healthy cell flow through the channel into the virus and raise its acidity. That triggers the release of the virus genetic material into the healthy cell. The virus hijacks the healthy cells resources and uses them to reproduce and spread the virus.

If the M2 proton channel is blocked, the process doesnt work and a virus cant infect a cell and spread.

Hong and Cady studied the proton channel with the help of solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spe
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Contact: Mei Hong
mhong@iastate.edu
515-294-3521
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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