Viruses have been evolving side by side with the human race. In the last century antiviral drugs allowed humans to tip the scales in their favor for the first time. Unfortunately, drugs are only effective as long as their targets remain the same. Drug resistant strains are a problem because each new drug is only effective for so long. A new, more permanent, approach is needed to fight these evolved virus strains
Science Daily featured an article originally published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers from the University of Leeds detailing the finding in RNA function in viruses. The RNA sequence identified is vital to virus assembly of strains such as; the rhinovirus, tick-borne encephalitis, and polio.
Figure 1. Image from University of Leeds researchers.
Researchers began their experiment after observing how the RNA encases itself in a "protective viral protein coat" in a matter of milliseconds. Mathematicians for the University of York then worked on an algorithm to create a computer model of the RNA coding system. In their last step, the University of Leeds researchers used single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy to observe the RNA strand in action.
Identifying the segments of code responsible is the first step in creating drugs that can disrupt the functionality of the code. If a drug can be developed to break down a virus at the RNA level, it would be a major development. Current antivirals target proteins on the virus' surface; however, as with most treatments, there is acquired resistance to treatment as the pathogen experiences selection towards different strands comprised of different proteins. An antiviral designed to target the RNA responsible for protecting the entirety of the RNA strand has the potential to limit the virus' ability to acquire resistance.
Post by Daniel Bonkowski (Group A)