TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Scientists solve three-dimensional structure of RSV

An international scientific team from Finland and Switzerland solved the three-dimensional structure of respiratory syncytial virus, moving them a step closer to developing a vaccine, according to a recently published thesis.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki's Institute of Biotechnology and ETH Zurich created a structural model of RSV, a common cause of respiratory infection. The disease causes flu-like symptoms in healthy adults, but the virus can be life-threatening among the elderly and young children. RSV causes an estimated 100,000 deaths worldwide annually.

"The structural model helps us to understand how infectious viruses are formed," Lassi Liljeroos, the researcher on the thesis, said. "This information can be useful in the intelligent design of vaccines."

RSV is related to the mumps and measles viruses, which all parasitize human cells by stealing parts of the cell membrane to use as their own. The researchers found that in RSV, the resulting virus membranes look like spheres and tubes.

"In addition, we observed that the fusion protein on the surface is in two different forms," Liljeroos said. "The fusion protein is responsible for attaching the virus to human cells and invading them. This is an important finding because the fusion protein is the key molecule in developing therapeutic antibodies to the virus."

There is currently no vaccine available for RSV.