Scripps team discovers possible treatment for deadly viruses

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) Florida campus researchers have discovered a potential treatment that could protect people from serious viruses like West Nile, dengue and Ebola.

The study suggests that scientists may be able to use an experimental antibiotic to encourage the elimination of these viruses. None of the three has a vaccine or treatment.

"Most of these viruses use a specific molecule to enter cells," Hyeryun Choe, a TSRI associate professor, said. "In the new study, we were able to show how a second molecule plays a major and previously unknown role in that process. We also show an antibiotic called duramycin inhibits the actions of this molecule. This looks to be a promising broad-spectrum antiviral strategy and deepens our understanding of the entire infection process."

All three of these viruses are part of a family called flaviviruses. These viruses cause countless deaths every year. The illnesses take over the body by moving a phosphatidylserine (PS) lipid from the inside of a cell’s membrane to the outside. This is called apopotosing. The virus then uses this to manipulate the cell into reproducing the virus instead of healthy cells.

"This new study goes a long way in helping us understand how so-called PS receptors contribute to flavivirus and filovirus infections and how we can block them through the PE-binding compounds," Choe said.

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