To ignite a life-threatening infection in the body, a virus such as HIV invades body cells by first merging, or fusing, with the cells outer membrane. Once inside the cell, the invading microbes genetic material takes over, turning the host cell into a factory to produce more copies of the virus, which then spill out to invade other cells in the body.
Scientists had assumed that once a virus begins fusing with a cells membrane, infection of the host cell was inevitable. Thus, antiviral drug development has largely focused on preventing events that happen either before or after this step.
However, a multi-institutional team of researchers is reporting that it has detected an intermediate stage between the virus merger with the cell membrane and the microbes delivery of its genetic contents into the cell, when the fate of the host cell still hangs in the balance.
Cathy Yarbrough | EurekAlert!
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