Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) have found a potential new route to disabling viruses that cause severe and life-threatening respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
These diseases affect premature babies and infants, the elderly, and anyone with a weak immune system.
According to UNICEF, pneumonia killed a child somewhere in the world every 39 seconds in 2018, but there are no vaccines or effective antiviral therapies against it.
By elucidating the structure of a key component in the two closely-related viruses – respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV) – the NTU researchers suggested a route for new antiviral treatments.
HMPV and RSV infect human cells and commandeer the cell’s machinery to make copies of themselves. To initiate the process, special proteins released by the virus interact with each other to make distinct protein complexes.
An analysis done by NTU scientists have revealed key sites molecules interact at, offering new targets for designing antiviral molecules against both viruses. This detailed structural knowledge can help in the development of inhibitors that could potentially block infection by the virus.
“We hope that our work will help researchers in pharma and academia around the world to design much needed therapies for difficult viral infections that often lead to antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections,” said Dr Julien Lescar from NTU’s School of Biological Sciences.