Updated: March 16, 2021 7:53:16 am
A mosquito protein, called AEG12, strongly inhibits the family of viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Zika, and also weakly inhibits coronaviruses, according to scientists at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators.
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The researchers found that AEG12 works by destabilising the viral envelope, breaking its protective covering. The protein does not affect viruses that do not have an envelope. The findings, however, could lead to therapeutics against viruses that affect millions of people around the world, the NIH said in a press release.
The research was published online in PNAS.
Scientists at the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH, used X-ray crystallography to solve the structure of AEG12. NIH quoted senior author Geoffrey Mueller as saying that at the molecular level, AEG12 rips out the lipids (the fat-like portions of the membrane that hold the virus together). “It is as if AEG12 is hungry for the lipids that are in the virus membrane, so it gets rid of some of the lipids it has and exchanges them for the ones it really prefers,” Mueller was quoted as saying.
Long way to go
While the researchers demonstrated that AEG12 was most effective against flaviviruses — the family of viruses to which Zika, West Nile, and others belong — they felt it is possible AEG12 could be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. But, Mueller was quoted as saying that it will take years of bioengineering to make AEG12 a viable therapy for Covid-19. Part of the problem is AEG12 also breaks opens red blood cells, so researchers will have to identify compounds that will make it target viruses only.
Source: NIH/ NIEHS, US
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