TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Scientists identify molecules that block flu virus replication

Researchers at Rutgers University recently developed a new way to attack flu viruses by using chemical agents that block the virus' ability to replicate, the university announced on Friday.

The novel compounds use an approach that previously aided in the development of powerful anti-AIDS drugs. The compounds bind to metal ions in a viral enzyme, which can stop the enzyme's ability to activate a key step in the replication process.

The researchers screened 800 small molecule fragments for their ability to bind to metal ions in the enzyme from the H1N1 flu virus. The targeted flu enzyme steals material from human cells to disguise the invading flu virus in a process known as cap-snatching.

After finding possible molecule candidates, the team modified the compounds to make them more potent and selective in blocking the activity of the flu enzyme.

"Right now there's really only one effective oral drug for treating influenza," Eddy Arnold, a professor of chemistry at Rutgers, said. "What we're doing by blocking or inhibiting this enzyme is to interfere with flu's ability to disguise itself."

Arnold said that the approach itself isn't new, but the technology did not exist 20 years ago to obtain high-resolution images of the influenza enzyme.

The novel compounds could form a new class of antiviral medicines used to fight pandemic influenzas like the H5N1 influenza A virus and the new H7N9 virus.

The Rutgers team recently published its findings in ACS Chemical Biology.