We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.

The full article is available here as HTML.

Press Ctrl-C to copy

Viruses need to make some mistakes when they reproduce in order to infect a person effectively, according to research carried out by a group of US researchers.

They suggest that their findings, published online by Nature this week (5 December), could lead to the development of a new class of antiviral drugs and vaccines to combat infections caused by a type of viruses known as RNA viruses.

RNA viruses cause diseases ranging from the common cold to hepatitis C and SARS.

The new drugs would force viruses to be more accurate which, ironically, would reduce their ability to reproduce and cause disease.

The research team, led by Raul Andino of the University of California, San Francisco, isolated a poliovirus that copies itself more accurately than the normal poliovirus, and found that it caused only mild infections.

The poliovirus was better at replicating itself because it had been bred in the presence of a powerful drug called ribavirin. This chemical usually creates so many errors during viral replication that the virus cannot survive.

To resist such a drug, as did the poliovirus in this study, a virus must maintain a very low error rate during replication.

But, since a low error rate makes the virus less potent, a drug like ribavirin could represent a new class of drugs against RNA viruses, Craig Cameron of Pennsylvania State University, an author of the study, told SciDev.Net.

The research also has implications for the development of vaccines against RNA viruses, Cameron added.

A vaccine must meet two requirements. Firstly, it must contain a virus that replicates successfully, but is weak enough not to cause disease.

Secondly, the virus must not be prone to mutations, or it might revert to a dangerous form.

The ribavirin-resistant poliovirus used in this study meets both criteria. It does not trigger severe disease symptoms, and it is forced to maintain a low mutation rate to conserve its ribavirin resistance.

Link to full abstract of paper in Nature

Reference: Nature doi:10.1038/nature04388 (2005)

Related topics