Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rift Valley fever virus: An infection mechanism identified

       To most people, mosquitoes can be a nightmare; however, when their bites are life-threatening, they can cause a nightmare to turn into a reality. The Rift Valley Fever Virus, transmitted by mosquitoes is responsible for outbreaks in livestock in Africa and can be fatal to humans. Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and the CNRS, working with the University of Göttingen, recently characterized the mechanism used by the virus to insert one of its envelope proteins into the host cell membrane, enabling it to infect a cell. Their finding was officially published in the journal Science on November 3, 3017. 
        RVF Virus has caused significant public health threats in the past, as well as, economic difficulties amongst those in Africa who make a living off their livestock. People who are exposed and have contact with infected animals are at very high risks to catch the virus themselves and they can also easily get bitten by a mosquito themselves. In 2000 the virus was spread out of Africa into Saudi Arabia and Yemen which gave a reason for people to be concerned that it may extend further to Asia and Europe. 
        Not only were the scientists able to find the specific mechanism used by the virus, they have also determined the atomic structure of the protein-lipid complex and realized it had a "recognition pocket." This finding was especially important because it is found in other viral families transmitted by arthropods such as the Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya viruses. These viruses have caused major worldwide epidemics in recent years and by understanding the mechanism that inserts the virus into the cell membrane, therapeutic agents can begin developing.  The aim here is to prevent pathogenic arboviruses from merging with host cells and hopefully stop such mosquitoes from the harm they are inflicting. 
        I'm thankful to the scientists who put effort into observing mosquitoes to find the infection mechanism that is used by the virus. I have learned about many the devastating epidemics that have occurred over the years, (some of them so recent) and I believe this discovery will make great changes in the future. I can see how much pain, loss, and tragedy the viruses brought upon the world and finding a way to prevent such outbreaks from happening may eventually save millions of lives.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting topic seeing as Zika seemed to be all over the new recently, but no real progress was seemed to be made. After reading this I can see that the viruses responsible for those illnesses have been located and have even recognized the mechanisms those viruses use to infect the hosts.