Researchers at Purdue University successfully shut down SARS virus defense mechanism

Researchers at Purdue University recently discovered a way to disable the part of the SARS virus that makes it invisible to the immune system.

The research team investigated the molecular structure of a particular SARS enzyme that strips a host cell of a protein that would normally trigger an immune response to the virus. The researchers may have taken a step toward developing treatments for SARS and other viruses by shutting down that papain-like protease, Science Daily reports.

"This is a first step toward creating a weakened and safe virus for use in an attenuated live vaccine," Andrew Mesecar, the professor of biological sciences and chemistry at Purdue who led the study, said, according to Science Daily. "This also could serve as a molecular roadmap for performing similar studies on other coronaviruses, like MERS, because this enzyme appears to be common to all viruses within this family."

Mesecar and his team are currently applying their findings to the MERS virus, Science Daily reports.

The outbreak of SARS in 2003 led to thousands of cases of illness and hundreds of deaths in two dozen countries worldwide within months. The virus can be quickly transmitted from person to person through coughing or sneezing.

No cases of SARS have been reported since 2004.