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Scientists Make Major Breakthrough in Hunt for Zika Virus Vaccine

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Mother Daniele Santos changes her baby Juan Pedro, 2-months-old, who was born with microcephaly, on February 3, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded thousands of cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. Microcephaly results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders. The state with the most cases is Pernambuco, whose capital is Recife, and is being called the epicenter of the outbreak. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mother Daniele Santos changes her baby Juan Pedro, 2-months-old, who was born with microcephaly, on February 3, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

 

There may be a major breakthrough on the horizon in the battle against the Zika virus.

The disease, which produces microencephaly in newborns (as in the picture above) among other symptoms, dominated public health concerns for much of the last two years.

Scientists have identified the structure of a key protein, “NS5,” in the mosquito-born virus that could potentially help create drugs to fight it. NS5 assists Zika’s unique genomic replication, which had previously made it difficult to develop anti-viral drugs—Phys.org reports.

University of California, Riverside researchers, who published their findings in Nature Communications, pinpointed an area in the protein structure where an inhibitor could be used to make the virus less potent.

“Our work provides a framework for future studies of ZIKV NS5 and opportunities for drug development against ZIKV based on its structural similarity to the NS5 protein of other flaviviruses, such as the dengue virus,” research team leader Song Hai wrote.

Hai refers to a technique that has been used to develop antiviral medicine to prevent Dengue Fever. Scientists will begin investigating its potential with the Zika virus soon.

RealClearLife