Researchers have successfully identified the molecule responsible for the ending the activity of a crucial enzyme in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS virus.
According to Professor Andrew Mesecar at Purdue University, who led the research, the virus affects people differently and could lead to severe respiratory distress for some people. The finding could lead the way to better treatments for those infected.
The virus, which emerged in 2012, is in the international spotlight again as South Korea faces the largest MERS outbreak outside the Middle East. More than 2,800 people have been quarantined during the outbreak. The World Health Organization reported 27 deaths and 172 confirmed cases in its most recent update.
To date, 25 countries have reported cases, according to the WHO.
The team also discovered a characteristic of the enzyme that is very different from other coronaviruses, the family of viruses to which MERS-CoV belongs, Mesecar said.
The team next plans to study the interaction of the inhibitor with a complete virus inside a cell and investigate other potential inhibitor molecules.
They had captured the protease’s atomic structure through this work, which provides the map to design potent new drugs to fight MERS, said Mesecar.
The results have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.