Researchers' Findings Could Pave the Way to Vaccines for SARS and MERS

Source: Infection Control Today


Researchers led by Purdue University professor of biological sciences and chemistry Andrew Mesecar have disabled a part of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus that allows it to hide from the immune system, which he says marks the first step toward developing “a weakened and safe virus for use in an attenuated live vaccine.” The researchers captured the molecular structure of a key enzyme, papain-like protease, and figured out how it removes the proteins ubiquitin and ISG15—which trigger an immune response—from a host cell. “The goal in engineering a SARS virus that could be used as a vaccine is to create one that replicates in cells but is unable to fend off the body’s immune response,” says Mesecar. “We want enough viral particles to be generated to properly prime the immune system to fight off a true infection, but without the virus being able to cause illness in the vaccinated individual.” Given that the enzyme seems to be common to all viruses in the family, he believes the research could lead to vaccines for other coronaviruses, like MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). The study is published in PLOS Pathogens.

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