Viruses as diverse as influenza, Zika, and more could be targeted by a newly developed macromolecule created by researchers at IBM. Developers hope their creation could be used to successfully treat patients suffering from a wide-range of viral diseases and infections.

Viral infections are notoriously hard to defeat, and this is due to the fact that these microorganisms mutate quickly, taking little time to adapt to newly developed medicines.

These macromolecules utilize a "Triple play" action on viruses in order to wipe out a wide variety of viral organisms. The first of these stages is attraction, in which proteins from the virus are drawn to the macromolecule, negating the ability of the virus to infect healthy cells. This is followed by prevention, which builds natural protections in the body. This is accomplished when segments of the macromolecule resembling the sugar mannose bind to healthy immune cell receptors, activating their fight against the viral invader. The third attack of the macromolecule, neutralization, alters the pH inside the virus, preventing the invader from replicating.

Dengue, Ebola, and the Zika virus have each become serious epidemics in recent years, and influenza kills between 250,000 and 5 million people worldwide each year. However, this newly developed macromolecule from IBM would be able to fight each of the microorganisms.

The one-two-three approach of the macromolecule has been proven effective when treating a wide range of viruses, including those that cause the common cold. This class of infection is caused by one of 200 types of viruses, of which four are most common. In addition to the familiar rhinovirus, around one in five colds is the result of an infection by a coronavirus, while half as many people are infected by parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

"We have created an anti-viral macromolecule that can tackle wily viruses by blocking the virus from infecting the cells, regardless of mutations. It is not toxic to healthy cells and is safe for use. This promising research advance represents years of hard work and collaboration with a global community of researchers," said Yi Yan Yang of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore.

Watson, an IBM supercomputer best known for appearing on the game show Jeopardy, may be utilized in future development of the macromolecule.

Development of the new versatile virus hunter is published in the journal Macromolecules.

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