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article imageScientists fight back against Coxsackievirus B

By Tim Sandle     Jul 21, 2016 in Science
Georgiana - Scientists at Colorado State University have developed a technique to combat the deadly Coxsackievirus B, which can cause heart disease. This is through a genetic poison pill.
Coxsackievirus B a pathogenic enterovirus, that trigger illness ranging from mild gastrointestinal distress to full-fledged pericarditis (inflammation the fibrous sac surrounding the heart) and myocarditi (inflammation of heart muscle.) The two heart diseases are collectively known as coxsackievirus-induced cardiomyopathy. The risks are serious: enlargement of heart ventricles, and thinning of the ventricular wall that may lead to heart failure.
The virus is relatively rare, in terms of geographical distribution, being found almost entirely in the U.S., and then appearing mainly in Connecticut, Ohio, New York, and Kentucky. At present there is no specific treatment, and diagnosis is mainly via serological tests such as ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).
To combat coxsackievirus B researchers based at Colorado State University, led by Professor Olve Peersen, have developed a technique described as a "genetic poison pill." The novel method, outlined in a research brief, restricts the ability of the virus to replicate and possibly triggers the virus to self-destruct.
According to Gizmag, the research team noted how coxsackievirus copies itself and mutates, which is based on an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. The researchers studied the RNA polymerase responsible for viral replication. From this, they have managed to modify the replicating polymerase so the virus ends up fights against itself. This was achieved by introducing an amino acid called tryptophan into the viral structure. As well as stopping replication, if the virus mutates to remove the change it self-destructs.
Posting news about the research on Twitter, technology enthusiast Yannick Lontchi (@lontchi) summed up the research nicely: "Scientists "outsmart Mother Nature" to combat deadly virus."
In addition to the ability to combat the virus, the research team hope the technology will be the basis of a vaccine against coxsackievirus B and possibly related viruses. All of this is speculative and the research to date is based on animal testing. There is someway to go before the drug is tested against a human subject.
The research has been published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. The research is titled "Design of a Genetically Stable High Fidelity Coxsackievirus B3 Polymerase That Attenuates Virus Growth in vivo."
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