The University of Colorado School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina published findings and articles that explain how Flaviviruses create a unique RNA molecule that causes a disease.
As per scholarly journal eLife, the virus that causes Dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile use instructions encoded on an RNA strand to capture and reproduce an infected cell. The virus also exploits an enzyme which cells use to break RNA and produce short stretches of RNA instead. RNA helps the virus avoid the immune system by using a structured RNA molecule to resist the said enzyme which is normally adept at destroying RNA.
Meanwhile, the Science journal also published an article that explains how the resistant RNA goes into a "knot-like" structure and thwarts the enzyme that cannot "untangle" it. The researchers reportedly used X-ray crystallography for this study, a technique that allowed them to observe individual molecule structures. This RNA structure is a new, unprecedented discovery and it is being observed further because of its characteristics that may be used for new drugs to treat and develop vaccines for the diseases. This new understanding of how an RNA found in various Flaviviruses thwarts the enzyme may be of help as well.
University of North Carolina researchers discovered a new drug that might be able to cure the Dengue virus and even prevent the mosquito-borne disease through potential vaccines. The group of scientists revealed a molecular hinge where natural human antibodies attach to the dengue type-3 virus, which disables it. The finding shows that most human antibodies that neutralize the virus connect to this hinge. The study also explains how these binding hinges, where two regions of a protein connect, can be exchanged genetically without disrupting the integrity of the virus.
"This gives us a lot of insight into how human antibodies work," UNC School of Medicine professor of microbiology and immunology Aravinda de Silva said. "And there could be a lot of translational aspects to this; it could lead to a new way to create vaccines for other diseases."
De Silva is currently working with Ralph Baric and vaccine developers to try the effectiveness of potential dengue vaccines. Developing an effective Dengue vaccine has been difficult due to the disease phenomenon called antibody dependent enhancement, which enhances a second type of dengue after a first infection. An enhanced infection may result to a severe, life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever.
Over 40 percent of people around the world are at risk of the Dengue virus while over 100 million are already infected. The disease can cause fever, pain and headache but it can also be a deadly condition where tiny blood vessels start to leak. Flaviviruses are said to be dangerous emerging pathogens.