New Approach to Anti-Viral Therapy May Help Overcome Drug Resistance
The main problem in fighting viruses has been the
evolution of drug-resistant strains. Toward the goal of developing a new
approach to anti-viral therapy that may prevent drug resistance from
arising, Brookhaven biologists have developed a multi-drug attack against
several sites on a single, vital, viral protein: an enzyme that cleaves
other proteins to complete the maturation of newly synthesized virus
-- by Karen McNulty Walsh
They cause diseases from AIDS to Zoster — with colds, Ebola, hemorrhagic fever, influenza, measles, mumps, rabies, SARS, smallpox, and yellow fever, among thousands of others, in between.
Ultramicroscopic, they are simply composed of a protein coat surrounding a nucleic acid core. Capable of infecting animals, plants, and bacteria, they are unable to metabolize or reproduce without these unwilling hosts.
They are viruses, and “one of the biggest challenges in modern biology is to find ways to thwart them,” says Brookhaven Lab biologist Walter Mangel.
The main problem in fighting viruses has been the evolution of drug-resistant strains: Almost as soon as scientists come up with drugs to block a virus’s disease-causing effects, mutant virus particles appear that are “immune” to the drug. These resistant strains can then go on causing infection. By being able to mutate spontaneously, viruses can survive most any challenge in the environment, including the presence of antiviral agents. In other words, explains Mangel, “Viruses have evolved to secure their existence.”
With funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, Mangel and a group of scientists in his lab have developed a new approach to anti-viral therapy that may prevent drug resistance from arising. Their idea: to stage a multi-drug attack against several sites on a single, vital, viral protein.