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One vaccine to treat multiple viruses
September 24, 2017, 5:07 pm

Millions of people around the world affected by diseases caused by viruses, such as Zika, dengue and Hepatitis C, could be treated with a one-time vaccine discovered by scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK.

Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune response to the coat of proteins (antigens) on the virus which enable the body to fight off the virus and recognize it in the future. But viruses are able to change their coat proteins and thus evade the antibodies, meaning some viruses can be very hard to vaccinate against.

The research team at Southampton found that that natural killer cells (NK cells) — a fundamental part of the body's immune system — recognize many different viruses through a single receptor called KIR2DS2. This cell receptor is able to target a non-variable part in the virus called the NS3 helicase protein, which is essential to proper functioning of the virus.

The team says that NS3 helicase protein could be the key to overcoming the defense mechanisms in many lethal viruses, including other viruses similar to Hepatitis C, such as Zika virus, dengue virus, yellow fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus and in fact all flaviviruses that contain a region within their NS3 helicase proteins that is recognized by exactly the same KIR2DS2 receptor. “We believe that by targeting this NS3 helicase region, we could make a new type of vaccine based upon natural killer cells, which can be used to help protect people from these infections," said the researchers.

The new finding could change the way viruses are targeted by vaccines, but the scientists cautioned that their study is still at an initial phase and more studies would be needed to test the findings.



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