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Scientists see way to stop viruses going viral

posted 16 Jan 2012, 09:09 by Mpelembe   [ updated 16 Jan 2012, 09:10 ]

A team of scientists in Australia have mapped the structure of an enzyme they say could be targeted by drugs to stop viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C from turning into deadly diseases.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT) (AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION) - Spencer Williams at Melbourne University thinks his team's research has made it possible to stop some viruses from ever turning into full blown diseases. Their work has focused on the enzymes in cells that viruses use to replicate themselves, and the pathways they follow to get there.

"One of these main pathways is in fact two pathways. And if you try to inhibit just one pathway, then the viruses instead use the other pathway," said Williams, an associate professor in the school of chemistry at the university.

Now that Williams and his team have mapped the enzyme, he thinks drug makers will be able to produce inhibitors that will deny a virus access to it - effectively trapping the virus before it can do any damage.

"In effect, we should be able to prevent viruses from replicating, and therefore going on to cause disease," he said.

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts within cells. A virus hijacks a cell by using its enzymes to infect, replicate and ultimately kill it.

"The type of viruses that we're talking about are things like hepatitis C, HIV, and these types of viruses infect up to 180 million people world-wide each year," said Sally Gras, a bimolecular engineer.

Williams says it will take at least ten more years of research but he believes his findings will help prevent some of the world deadliest diseases.