Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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General Defence

Subtle change in acidity used as an antiviral target

05 August 2022

General Defence

Some challenges call for a personal approach, while others are easily tackled with more generic tactics. Viral infection is a universal threat, and although the best defences are antivirals designed to tackle particular strains, this can take time and viruses can evolve at speed. Therefore it’s essential to have a suite of broad antivirals to keep rising threats at bay. Factors on the surface of viral envelopes [their outer wrapping] are a potential target for such drugs, but it‘s proven hard to pinpoint new elements to focus on. A new approach responds to the subtle change in acidity caused by viral infection, with pH-sensitive nanoprobes (yellow), which bind to viral surfaces (orange) only at certain pH levels. The result is the breakdown of the viral envelope, reducing the harm a range of viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, can cause, and providing an approach that could provide a first line of defence against emerging viruses.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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