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.

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