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Scientists Discover Mechanism In Potent Antibody Capable Of Neutralizing Zika Infection

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The fight against Zika intensifies, and researchers from the University of North Carolina and the Duke University-National University of Singapore Medical School are doing their part by uncovering the mechanism behind how a potent antibody called C10 can prevent Zika infections from taking place.

Publishing their findings in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers said that outlining the structural basis of neutralization offers support that C10 can be used in fighting Zika infections. A reaction between the antibody and the Dengue virus was previously identified.

How Virus Infections Work

Typically, viruses undergo two steps to carry out cell infections: docking and fusion. When it docks, a virus particle identifies a certain site on the cell and binds to that spot. In the case of the Zika virus, docking initiates the process of the cell taking in the virus through an endosome, or a separate compartment in the cell's body. Proteins found on the virus' coat start undergoing structural changes to prepare for fusion with the endosome's membrane, which will signify release of the virus genome into the cell and the completion of the infection.

In September, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggested that the Zika virus may be spread from infected eyes after observing a transmission case that occurred without all of the previously defined modes of contact. Considering the eyes as a source of Zika infection is important because a third of babies infected in the womb are born with optic nerve inflammation while infected adults end up with conjunctivitis.

Cryoelectron Microscopy

Using a cryoelectron microscope, the researchers were able to visualize how C10 interacts with Zika, with different PH levels simulated to mimic the various environments that the antibody and virus will be encountering in the course of an infection. They were able to observe that C10 works by binding to the main protein on the virus' coat and locking it in place to prevent structural changes necessary to initiate the fusion process necessary for an infection. No fusion, no infection.

Future Zika Treatment Research

Aside from suggesting that C10 has the potential to be used as Zika infection therapy, the study's results point to the possibility that focusing on disrupting fusion rather than docking may be the more effective route toward thwarting Zika.

"This should emphasize the need to further studies of the effect of C10 on Zika infection in animal models," said Lok Shee-Mei, one of the authors for the study.

The current study received funding support from the National Institute of Health (USA) AID Research Grants, Singapore's Ministry of Health through the Duke-NUS Signature Research Program, the National Research Foundation Investigatorship Award and Singapore's Ministry of Education.

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