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New ways to disarm deadly South American hemorrhagic fever viruses
Date:3/8/2010

mans is unknown, Harrison says. Other segments of the receptor bind iron-bearing transferrin, but the apical domain appears to be uninvolved in that process. "We don't know the normal function of the apical domain. Obviously it didn't evolve just to give Machupo virus a way to infect humans, but that's what the virus has evolved to latch onto," he says.

Because the apical domain is not involved in the critical task of moving iron into cells, Harrison says it presents an attractive target for drugs. In theory, an antibody designed to attach to the apical domain would prevent the Machupo virus from attaching to cells, blocking infection. One possible treatment strategy, then, would be to infuse patients with such an antibody during the early stages of infection, which might slow the infection enough to let patients recover.

Harrison says the finding might also help virologists predict which of the 22 known arenaviruses might be capable of infecting humans. Only five are known to infect humans nowand all of those bind to the human transferrin receptor. Presumably the other 17 viruses produce surface proteins that are unable to bind to the human transferrin receptor, Harrison says.

For Abraham, the idea of finding a treatment for these New World hemorrhagic fevers is close to his heart. His family hails from Haiti, where there is a "huge burden of infectious diseases. I'd like to dedicate my career to studying pathogens in underserved parts of the world," he says.


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Contact: Andrea Widener
widenera@hhmi.org
301-215-8807
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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