A researcher has created the first ever computer reconstruction of a virus, including its complete native genome, according to a study.
Although other researchers have created similar reconstructions, this is the first to replicate the exact chemical and 3D structure of a ‘live’ virus, the study said.
The breakthrough by Dmitry Nerukh, from the Department of Mathematics at Aston University, UK, could lead the way to research into an alternative to antibiotics, reducing the threat of anti-bacterial resistance.
The study is published in the journal Faraday Discussions.
According to the study, the research was conducted using existing data of virus structures measured via cryo-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM), and computational modelling which took almost three years despite using supercomputers in the UK and Japan.
The breakthrough will open the way for biologists to investigate biological processes which cannot currently be fully examined because the genome is missing in the virus model, the study said. This includes finding out how a bacteriophage, which is a type of virus that infects bacteria, kills a specific disease-causing bacterium, the study said.
At the moment it is not known how this happens, but this new method of creating more accurate models will open up further research into using bacteriophage to kill specific life-threatening bacteria, the study said.
This could lead to more targeted treatment of illnesses which are currently treated by antibiotics, and therefore help to tackle the increasing threat to humans of antibiotic resistance, the study said. “Up till now no one else had been able to build a native genome model of an entire virus at such detailed (atomistic) level,” said Nerukh.
“The ability to study the genome within a virus more clearly is incredibly important. Without the genome it has been impossible to know exactly how a bacteriophage infects a bacterium,” said Nerukh.
“This development will now allow help virologists answer questions which previously they couldn’t answer,” said Nerukh.
“This could lead to targeted treatments to kill bacteria which are dangerous to humans, and to reduce the global problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which are over time becoming more and more serious,” said Nerukh.