Researchers identify drug targets for the dreaded Nipah virus

Health news

Fight against the
dreaded Nipah disease : drug targets for the Nipah virus

New Delhi, December
14th 2019: Taking the fight against the dreaded Nipah disease
to a new level, researchers at Pune-based Indian Institute of Science
Education and Research (IISER)
have developed drug targets for the
virus
that causes the disease, using the molecular modeling approach.

How spread Nipah
virus

Nipah
virus outbreaks have very high mortality rates. They are over 70 per cent in
Southeast Asia. The virus spreads via bodily secretions of bats, pigs and
infected individuals. It was first detected in human population in 1998 in
Malaysia, It made its way into Indian subcontinent with outbreaks in Bangladesh
and India a few
years later.

The Nipah virus is
an RNA virus.

In other words, its
genetic material is RNA surrounded by a protein envelope. Like all viruses, it
makes copies of itself and propogates by invading and hijacking the machinery
of the host cell, destroying it in the process. The virus’ protein envelope is
made of six proteins, and its RNA produces three more proteins to defend itself
from the responses of the host cells.

The researchers considered all the nine proteins as
potential therapeutic targets. They used the genetic sequence of a strain of the Nipah virus
from Malaysia and constructed computer models of the protein structures. They
then used the models to design molecules that could interfere with the
molecular mechanisms of the viral proteins to kill or at least disable it.

They also compared
the genetic sequences of 15 strains of viruses from across Bangladesh, Malaysia
and India and found that those parts of the proteins that would directly
interact with the drug molecules were not effectively different across the strains.

The researchers have
put out various details of their work including the structures of the molecules
on the website of their Institute for use by other researchers to take up
further studies.

“Our
strategy was to tackle the development of therapeutics on a proteome wide scale
and the lead compounds identified could be attractive starting points for drug
development”, the researchers noted in the paper they have published on their
work in the journal PLoS
Neglected Tropical Diseases. The study was
funded by Wellcome
Trust-DBT India Alliance, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The research team
consisted of Neeladri Sen, Tejashree Rajaram Kanitkar, Ankit Animesh Roy,
Neelesh Soni, Kaustubh Amritkar, Shreyas Supekar, Sanjana Nair, Gulzar Singh
and M.S.Madhusudhan.

By Sunderarajan
Padmanabhan

(India Science Wire)

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