Insight into Treating Viral Stomach Flu

Photo: Mouse norovirus

Shown here is the electron
microscopy image reconstruction
of mouse norovirus (MNV). The
capsid is colored according to
the distance from the center of
the virion. The inner shell is
colored red and yellow while
the protruding domain (P domain)
is colored in green and blue;
© Donald Danforth Plant Science
Centre

The virus is shed in the stool of the infected individual, has a short incubation period and can spread quickly if proper hand washing and other measures are neglected. While researchers say that vaccines for intestinal infections are among the most difficult to develop, a recent discovery may provide the critical information needed for success. “Sometimes atomic structure gives us clues on how viruses work and how to make better vaccines,” said Doctor Thomas Smith of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre.

Smith was part of a team of scientists lead by Doctor Peter D. Kwong, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their research demonstrated that the virus has a structure unlike that of other viruses in that is has protein “lollipop” like structures that likely gives it more flexibility in attaching to cells. There are four genera of this virus family, the Caliciviruses, with the Sapoviruses and Noroviruses being the major cause of severe gastroenteritis in humans.

Smith and his colleagues discovered that because of the “lollipop” structure, antibodies against the norovirus may be able to bind to the more conserved underside of this floppy structure. This suggests that the extreme flexibility of the norovirus particle may allow for antibody recognition of protected surfaces that might otherwise be buried on intact particles.

This information will give researchers more insight on how to manipulate complex viruses as well as to design and develop better drugs to treat the maladies they cause. Rotovirus, a member of a different viral family but also causes severe gastro intestinal distress primarily in children, is being well controlled by the recent development of a vaccine.

MEDICA.de; Source: Donald Danforth Plant Service Centre