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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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Researchers Examine Patterns of Back Pain

The bad news is that one in five experienced persistent back pain, said Canizares

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Researchers study patterns of back pain. IANS

Researchers have examined the patterns of back pain over time and patient characteristics in relation to the disability.

In addition, they have identified the extent of healthcare and medication use (including opioids) associated with different patterns.

Back pain is among the most frequently reported health problems in the world.

For the study, researchers from the University Health Network’s Krembil Research Institute in Toronto, Canada studied 12,782 participants for 16 years.

They provided data on factors including comorbidities, pain, disability, opioid and other medication use, and healthcare visits.

The results showed that almost half (45.6 per cent) of the participants reported back pain at least once.

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The study included four groups of pain: persistent (18 per cent), developing (28.1 per cent), recovery (20.5 per cent), and occasional (33.4 per cent).

The findings, published in Arthritis Care and Research, showed that the persistent and developing groups tended to have more pain and disability, as well as more healthcare visits and medication use than those in the recovery and occasional trajectory groups.

In addition, the recovery trajectory group increased the use of opioids and antidepressants over time.

“The good news is that one in five people with back pain recovered. However, they continued to use opioids and antidepressants, suggesting that people recovering from back pain need ongoing monitoring,” said lead author Mayilee Canizares, postdoctoral candidate from the varsity.

The bad news is that one in five experienced persistent back pain, said Canizares.

People with back pain are a heterogeneous group that may benefit from different approaches to management rather than a traditional one size fits all approach. The distinct groups identified in the study may represent opportunities for more individualised treatment and preventative strategies, Canizares noted. (IANS)