Researchers take step toward eliminating coronaviruses like MERS

MERS has started to spread throughout humans with a 36 percent fatality rate. 
MERS has started to spread throughout humans with a 36 percent fatality rate.  | File photo

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) recently discovered new approaches for eliminating coronaviruses, like MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) through an important protein found in HKU1, a coronavirus related to the two syndromes.

Coronaviruses are known to quickly evolve and spread from animals to humans. Since its discovery in 2003, SARS has killed approximately 775 people. Today, almost a decade later, MERS has started to spread throughout humans. It has a 36 percent fatality rate. 

HKU1 was detected in Hong Kong in 2005. By studying the coronavirus spike, which is the biggest Class I fusion protein known, researchers found structural similarities between the spike proteins from influenza and HIV.

The study, available in Nature journal, shows the spike protein portion of a virus’s fusion machinery invades host cells. Glycoproteins, which bind with sugars, protect the spikes.

The researchers developed a new kind of imaging technique, cryo-electron microscopy, to freeze samples and evaluate the protein structure. They hope their discovery will eventually form a pathway to eliminate this dangerous class of illnesses. 

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