Drug candidate takes new aim at MERS | Science News

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Drug candidate takes new aim at MERS

Chemical disrupts virus assembly centers

4:22pm, May 30, 2014

FACTORY SHUTDOWN  After infecting a human cell (shown), coronaviruses hijack membranes from the cell to form their own little viral factories (cluster of pale circles in center of image; dark circle in middle holds new virus particles). A new drug candidate blocks construction of these factories and halts viral growth.

An experimental drug that shuts down construction of virus-making factories could become a new weapon against MERS and similar respiratory diseases. The chemical, called K22, halts growth of a panel of different coronaviruses, including the strains that cause MERS and SARS, researchers report May 29 in PLOS Pathogens.

K22 is the latest in a slew of drug candidates to counter coronaviruses, for which no proven drug treatments currently exist. But K22 stands out from the crowd, says Stanley Perlman, a virologist and pediatric infectious disease physicianat the University of Iowa in Iowa City. 

K22 hits a part of the viral life cycle that no drug candidate has tackled before. “The ideal drug may be something like this,” Perlman says.

Still, moving the chemical from the lab to the clinic could take years of testing and development, says study coauthor Volker Thiel, a virologist at

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