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Novel strategy stymies SARS et al.
Date:10/28/2011

ally at the virus itself," explains Professor Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute of Virology at Bonn University Hospital. "And since viral pathogens are highly diverse, each of these agents can attack only certain viruses." Moreover, viruses are also highly mutable, making the weaponry they can deploy against us even more powerful. What works against one viral strain may be essentially useless against another.

The SARS virus, a previously unknown pathogen which threatened to cause a worldwide pandemic in 2003, has spurred on the search for new antiviral substances. Only recently, it was shown that not only Chinese, but also European, bats carry the SARS virus. "But in contrast to the situation with bird influenza, one cannot simply kill these free-living animals in order to eradicate the pathogen," says Drosten. "That would have catastrophic ecological consequences and, apart from that, bats are retiring and secretive in their habits." If one wishes to develop drugs against viruses that can "hide" in animal species, one must explore other alternatives.

The research teams assembled by von Brunn and Drosten have now discovered a way to prevent the replication of a whole family of viruses by depriving them of an essential host factor. They first identified host proteins with which SARS viral proteins interact. This strategy led to the finding that a cellular signaling pathway is essential for the replication not only of the SARS virus, but also of a whole set of related viruses that are pathogenic to humans and animals.

"This signal pathway is normally involved in regulating the immune system," says Drosten. "We used a substance that inhibits the function of one of the proteins in the pathway, and found that it suppresses viral replication." In other words, drugs that block this pathway inhibit the replication of many different viruses, and therefore act as broad-spectrum antivirals. This opens a route to the treatment of conditi
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Contact: Dr. Kathrin Bilgeri
kathrin.bilgeri@lmu.de
49-218-06938
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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