JERUSALEM, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) — Israeli researchers have developed a molecule that effectively neutralizes deadly viruses passing from animals to humans, the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) reported Tuesday.
A host of disease-causing viruses called arenaviruses lurk in animal populations worldwide, and some of them could be transmitted to humans.
Two disease-causing arenaviruses, known as Junin and Machupo, circulate through rodent populations mainly in South America and can infect humans.
Like Ebola, these diseases can cause the body to “bleed out,” and the treatments, so far, are risky and complex.
In their study, published in the journal Nature Communications, WIS scientists and their partners engineered a molecule that can neutralize both viruses, as well as other viruses from the same family, leading to possible cures.
Such viruses can pass from rodents or other animals to humans because the proteins they carry are partially suitable for binding to human receptors.
This led to the idea that rodent cell receptors, which were a much better fit to the viruses’ “entry” proteins, could be used to intercept the viruses and lure them away from the human cells.
To put this to test, the researchers “surgically” removed the very tip of the rodent receptor to which the virus binds and engineered it onto part of an antibody, forming a molecule called “Arenacept.”
In the experiments, the molecule was tightly linked to the Junin and Machupo viruses before binding to human receptors, and immune response was also observed.
The researchers said Arenacept is non-toxic and high temperature resistant, so it can be sent to the hot areas where these diseases are a high danger.
They added that the idea of a “sticky trap” developed from mammal receptors could be applied in a variety of other diseases transmitted to humans from animals.