Researchers discover key mechanism behind herpes infection
The findings by researchers from Lund University in Sweden and Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. could result in the development of new medications to fight viral infections. While it was theorized that the high internal pressure of viruses allowed them to eject genetic material at high force and speed into human cells, no one previously succeeded in measuring the internal pressure of a virus. The research team successfully measured the pressure inside the herpes simplex virus I.
"The pressure explains the way all eight known herpes viruses that infect humans inject their genes into our cells," Alex Evilevitch, a biochemist from Lund University, said.
Medications exist to combat viral infections, but the drugs can become ineffective if the virus mutates. A treatment developed to reduce the pressure within the virus shell could be used to fight many different viruses with the same drug. The medication would theoretically work even if the virus mutated, because mutations do not affect a virus' internal pressure.
"The results of the present study are the first step towards the goal of developing a drug of this type, and we already have positive preliminary data that shows that the herpes infection can be stopped," Evilevitch said. "It feels great to know that this research will help to fight infections that are as yet incurable."