Peer Reviewed

Compound to combat respiratory virus identified

A class of anti-viral compounds has shown promise in combating a virus linked to respiratory and neurological infections, says a study.

Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) may cause serious respiratory infections in children and is also occasionally associated with infections characterised by symptoms including muscle weakness and paralysis, the study noted.

Small changes in the structure of the anti-viral compound called pleconaril could lead to effective treatment against infections caused by various strains of the virus, the researchers suggested.

Although EV-D68 has emerged as a considerable global public health threat, there is no available vaccine or effective anti-viral treatment.

enterovirus D68
This color-coded image shows the surface view of enterovirus D68, which has stricken children with serious respiratory infections and might be associated with polio-like symptoms. Red regions are the highest peaks, and the lowest portions are blue. In the black-and-white background are actual electron microscopy images of the EV-D68 virus. Image Credit: Purdue University image/Yue Liu and Michael G. Rossmann
“The ongoing research could lead to the development of drugs that inhibit infections caused by the most recent strains of the virus,” said Michael Rossmann, professor of biological sciences at the Purdue University in the US.

The researchers used a technique called X-ray crystallography to learn the precise structure of the original strain of EV-D68 on its own and when bound to the anti-viral compound pleconaril.

A molecule called the “pocket factor” is located within the virus’s protective shell, called the capsid.

When the virus binds to a human cell, the pocket factor is squeezed out, resulting in the destabilisation of the virus particle.

The virus then disintegrates and releases its genetic material to infect the cell and to replicate itself.

Pleconaril also binds into the pocket, inhibiting infection, the findings showed.

The study appeared in the journal Science.


Yue Liu, Ju Sheng, Andrei Fokine, Geng Meng, Woong-Hee Shin, Feng Long, Richard J. Kuhn, Daisuke Kihara, and Michael G. Rossmann. Structure and inhibition of EV-D68, a virus that causes respiratory illness in children. Science 2 January 2015: 71-74.DOI: 10.1126/science.1261962

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