Thursday, September 3, 2009

(Not so) Sickly Sweet

Three new antiviral proteins discovered by the National Cancer Institute work to target viruses by binding to sugars that coat their outer proteins. Once the viral sugars have been bound to, the virus's machinery for entering host cells is thwarted. The sugars targeted are common in viruses, but not in human cells and often go undetected by the body's immune system. The strongest antiviral protein, griffithsin or GRFT, inhibits HIV, SARS and Ebola. GRFT has currently been tested with promising results on cell and animal samples.

As a type of catch-all antiviral, GRFT could one day be used in a comprehensive antiviral vaccination. As such, it could be an affordable vaccine that would be accessible to and widely effective for individuals in developing countries, where medical resources are lacking. Human trials of a GRFT are planned for the near future and scientists are also planning on testing the effectiveness of the protein on H1-N1 flu.

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