Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee researchers have identified a molecule that exhibits antiviral activity against chikungunya virus. The antiviral activity, researchers said, achieved around 99% reduction in the virus. At present, there are no drugs or vaccine available in the market to treat chikungunya disease.
The research team led by Prof Shailly Tomar, Department of Biotechnology (DoB), IIT Roorkee, used structure-based studies of chikungunya virus specific nsP2 protease to identify molecules—Pep-I and Pep-II—that exhibited protease inhibitory as well as antiviral activity.
Talking about the importance of this research, Prof Tomar said, “The nsP2 protease is a strict viral enzyme. It means it is absent in humans and, thus, is an excellent antiviral drug target for chikungunya virus. Our research group has targeted nsP2 using biochemical and structure-based approach. We identified a molecule that not only possesses anti-nsP2 activity but also effectively kills the chikungunya virus in the cell based assays.”
The research was funded by the grant from the DoB and published recently in the Elsevier journal Biochimie.
One of the two molecules—Pep-I—has higher antiviral activity against chikungunya virus. The Pep-I molecule inhibits the enzymatic activity of nsP2 viral protein and in cell based assay proves to be an effective antiviral molecule.
Speaking about the future work in this direction, Prof Tomar added, “Derivatives of Pep-I and Pep-I like molecules are being developed that will be tested for their antiviral potential in animal model.”
According to the researchers, any molecule that inhibits nsP2 protease should possess antiviral activity.