Via The Standard: Find offers hope against killer virus. Excerpt:
Hong Kong and mainland scientists said they have identified a compound that in lab-dish experiments blocks infection by the deadly SARS-like Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus.
A type of small protein, also known as a peptide, prevents the spikey virus from fusing with human respiratory cells, they said.
Fusion is a key step in replication of the MERS-CoV. It enables the virus to infiltrate a cell and hijack its cellular machinery in order to reproduce.
The study was published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
The research team was jointly formed by the University of Hong Kong, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Fudan University.
The peptide, called heptad repeat 2 or HR2P, has "good potential" for development into a future drug against MERS-CoV, the team said. So far, HR2P's effects have only been studied on cells in a lab dish and not yet on animals - the next step in a long process to validate any new drug for safety and effectiveness.
"The reports of person-to-person transmission of MERS-CoV through close contacts have raised global concern about its pandemic potential. Therefore, the development of drugs capable of curbing the spread of MERS-CoV is of great importance," said Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, clinical assistant professor of HKU's microbiology department.
"Fortunately, there are no cases found in Hong Kong, but seen from overseas cases, there was limited infection among humans.
"Instances included virus spread among family members or between doctors and patients. Although it's temporarily not a pandemic, it is important to monitor the development of the virus."
He said currently there is no specific treatment for the infection, caused by a novel coronavirus - the same virus family that caused Hong Kong's 2003 SARS outbreak.