Researchers locate new target for treating flu

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Washington, Jan 31 : Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered a new target in the proton channel of a viral protein called the M2 that can effectively treat drug-resistant strains of type A influenza.

According to experts, nearly all type A influenza viral strains have become resistant to drugs namely amantadine and rimantadine that are used to treat the flu.

"We know that resistance to amantadine is caused by a mutation in the virus M2 protein, but we did not know how this mutation caused resistance," Nature quoted William F. DeGrado, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, as saying.

"Now we do - the mutation changes the shape of the channel so amantadine can no longer do its job," he added.

Amantadine drug enters the channel of the protein and obstructs the flow of protons, thereby inhibiting the infection.

The researchers found that the structure had a pocket in the channel next to the area where amantadine was found.

They believe that this can be a potential target for designing new drugs.

"Inhibitors that target this cavity adjacent to two highly conserved amino acids in M2 might reclaim the M2-blocking class of drugs so that ongoing endemic outbreaks and future pandemics of this deadly virus might be prevented and treated," said DeGrado.

Researchers are now conducting further studies to design new compounds that can plug the M2 channel by fitting into the newly discovered space.

This study is published in the Jan. 31 issue of the journal Nature.

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