Scientists engineered a peptide that exploits Zika virus at its Achilles’ heel, according to a report published on January 12, 2019.
This peptide was engineered by the scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore). It is an antiviral peptide capable of exploiting the Zika virus at its Achilles’ heel. This will stop the virus from causing severe infections.
Through this new method, Zika virus particles can be directly stopped unlike other methods where the replication of new virus particles are prevented. The new peptide was administered in Zika-infected mice in the lab and it was found that the disease symptoms and number of deaths were reduced. Moreover, the peptide was able to cross the nearly impenetrable blood-brain barrier to tackle viral infection in mouse brains and protect against Zika injury.
This peptide is capable of differentiating between Zika viral membranes and mammalian cell membranes because the virus particles are much smaller and more curved, while the mammalian cells are larger and flatter. This study, which was done in collaboration with the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Brazil and Ghent University in Belgium, was completed in six years. They combined materials engineering, antiviral drug development, and pharmacology to carry out the study.
Associate Professor Cho of NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, said, “There are currently no vaccines for the Zika virus, while available medicines only alleviate symptoms such as fever and pain. This newly created peptide holds great promise in becoming a future antiviral drug that can act directly on viral infections in the brain.”