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Researchers find potential way to combat MERS virus

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New York: Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found molecules that shut down the activity of an enzyme essential to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus replication.

The virus is in the international spotlight again as South Korea faces the largest MERS outbreak outside the Middle East.

More than 2,800 people have been quarantined during the outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 27 deaths and 172 confirmed cases in its most recent update on June 22.

Professors Arun Ghosh and Andrew Mesecar from Purdue University in the US have been studying the virus and creating and testing molecular compounds that could lead to potential treatments since shortly after MERS was discovered.

“The team identified molecules that inhibit an enzyme essential to MERS virus replication and discovered a characteristic of the enzyme that is very different from other coronaviruses, the family of viruses to which MERS-CoV belongs,” Mesecar said. He added, “This enzyme is a prime target – an Achilles’ heel of the virus.”

The team was targeting an enzyme within the MERS virus called 3C-like protease, without which the virus cannot create more viruses to further an infection.

“We captured the protease’s atomic structure through this work, which provides the map to design potent new drugs to fight MERS,” said Mesecar.

The MERS virus emerged in 2012 and was mostly confined to the Middle East until 2014 when cases were identified in the US, Britain, France and Italy. Till date, 25 countries have reported cases, according to the WHO.

“It is a threat to public health and there currently is no treatment or vaccine. We continue to study the virus to improve our understanding of how it works and ways to prevent its spread.”

The study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

(IANS)

 

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New Virus Can Spread Through Human Contact: China

China: Possible That New Virus Could Spread Between Humans

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CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
Security guards stand in front of the closed Huanan wholesale seafood market, where health authorities say a man who died from a respiratory illness had purchased goods from, in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. VOA

The possibility that a new virus in central China could spread between humans cannot be ruled out, though the risk of transmission at the moment appears to be low, Chinese officials said Wednesday.

Forty-one people in the city of Wuhan have received a preliminary diagnosis of a novel coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more serious diseases. A 61-year-old man with severe underlying conditions died from the coronavirus on Saturday.

While preliminary investigations indicate that most of the patients had worked at or visited a particular seafood wholesale market, one woman may have contracted the virus from her husband, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a public notice.

CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
Commuters wear protection masks inside a subway train in Hong Kong, China. VOA

The commission said the husband, who fell ill first, worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Meanwhile, the wife said she hasn’t had any exposure to the market.

It’s possible that the husband brought home food from the market that then infected his wife, Hong Kong health official Chuang Shuk-kwan said at a news briefing. But because the wife did not exhibit symptoms until days after her husband, it’s also possible that he infected her.

Chuang and other Hong Kong health officials spoke to reporters Wednesday following a trip to Wuhan, where mainland Chinese authorities briefed them on the outbreak.

The threat of human-to-human transmission remains low, Chuang said, as hundreds of people, including medical professionals, have been in close contact with infected individuals and have not been infected themselves.

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She echoed Wuhan authorities’ assertion that there remains no definitive evidence of human-to-human transmission.

The outbreak in Wuhan has raised the specter of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS is a type of coronavirus that first struck southern China in late 2002. It then spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people. (VOA)