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New Compound to Fight MERS and SARS

May 30, 2014 05:10 PM EDT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East reparatory syndrome (MERS) both continue to have no known cure or vaccination, despite the fact that the viruses have proven deadly in some cases. Now, scrambling researchers have identified a compound that renders viruses such as MERS harmless, unable to inflict damage to human cells or reproduce, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the Public Library of Science's journal, PLOS One, details how the compound known simply as K22 prevents coronaviruses like SARS and MERS-Cov from reshaping host cell membranes, effectively halting reproduction and spread of the virus.

According to the study, MERS-Cov traditionally infects cells lining the human airways, reforming these cells' membranes into a kind of "scaffolding" or ladder-way, leading the virus from one new cell host to another, where it can multiply and spread some more.

According to the study authors, K22 is remarkably efficient at preventing this membrane molding from happening, leading to the eventual death eradication of the virus, as it has no ability to spread.

"The remarkable efficacy of K22-mediated inhibition of coronavirus replication confirms that the employment of host cell membranes for viral RNA synthesis is a crucial step in the coronavirus life cycle, and importantly, demonstrates that this step is extremely vulnerable and also druggable for antiviral intervention," the authors of the study concluded.

The study was published in PLOS One on May 29.

Another study featured by Nature World News this month detailed how the experimental compound SSYA10-001 can also target the viral RNA reproduction of MERS, effectively shutting down the reproductive properties of the virus at the source.

However, both these strategies for fighting coronaviruses like MERS and SARS are still just experimental, and are years in the making.

In the wake of the latest international cases of the MERS virus, especially in the US, many scientists have argued that the best way to tackle MERS-Cov is to make use of pre-existing medications that have properties that can help stave off the viral spread.

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