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Breakthrough in West Nile disease

27.12.2005


West Nile virus (WNV) is a serious infection spreading across the world.

Spread by mosquitoes, it can cause high fever, encephalitis, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, loss of vision, numbness, paralysis and death. There is no vaccine and no cure.

Now, there is a chance that a team of researchers have identified a promising drug target.



In the latest issue of the Biochemical Journal, Alex Strongin of The Burnam Institute, La Jolla, and co-workers report that the NS3 protease from West Nile virus unexpectedly cleaves certain substrates at pairs of basic residues, a specificity that resembles that of the furin-like PCs (proprotein convertases).

This suggests that furin/PC inhibitors containing poly(D-arginine) could be used as inhibitors of NS3, and that anthrax toxin protective antigen and myelin basic protein are potential NS3 substrates.

The hope is that the isolation of small-molecule inhibitors to WNV NS3 could at least lower the viral burden, and could lead to a clinically-effective drug.

Mark Burgess | alfa
Further information:
http://www.biochemj.org/bj/393/0503/3930503.pdf

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