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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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Babies Born with HIV Should Receive Immediate Treatment: Study

The availability of anti-HIV drugs can prevent infected moms from passing the virus on to their children but despite that, a study found that some 300-500 infants are thought to be infected every day in sub-Saharan Africa

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HIV
The findings of the Mississippi Baby case and the study in Botswana are particularly important to poorer nations where at-risk babies are not tested for HIV immediately after birth. Pixabay

Babies born with HIV benefit the most if treatment is started within hours or days of birth rather than waiting for them to be a little older, a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine found.

A Harvard-led study of 40 infected infants in Botswana found those treated within hours of birth developed a much smaller viral reservoir, the pool of virus that remains within the body during and after treatment and is responsible for later relapses. While babies who were given the medications starting at four months after birth did not fare as well.

The first group of babies also had more robust immune systems even than babies born without the virus.

HIV
Babies born with HIV benefit the most if treatment is started within hours or days of birth rather than waiting for them to be a little older, a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine found. Pixabay

The study was based on a case in the U.S. know as the “Mississippi Baby.” That case involved a baby who was treated within 30 hours of birth in July 2010. Her family stopped treatment when she was a toddler and she stunned the medical community by remaining in remission for 27 months before she relapsed and restarted treatment.

The findings of the Mississippi Baby case and the study in Botswana are particularly important to poorer nations where at-risk babies are not tested for HIV immediately after birth, as they are in the U.S., Europe and South Africa.

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The availability of anti-HIV drugs can prevent infected moms from passing the virus on to their children but despite that, a study found that some 300-500 infants are thought to be infected every day in sub-Saharan Africa. (VOA)