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Purdue Scientists First To Map Zika Virus Structure


Scientists at Purdue University are the first to map the physical structure of the Zika Virus, a breakthrough that could help battle the disease on multiple fronts.

Zika belongs to a family of viruses that includes Dengue and West Nile, whose structures have already been mapped. By comparing those with the newly-discovered Zika structure, scientists can figure out what exactly makes it different, says professor and team leader Richard Kuhn.

“Sorting through that information, we can guide a vaccine manufacturer into improving their vaccine by understanding what are the important sites to pursue,” he says.

Kuhn says in addition to crafting a vaccine, the knowledge could assist in quicker diagnoses and better antiviral medications for people already infected with the disease.

Other scientists are attempting to map the virus’s RNA in hopes of controlling spread through genetically manipulated mosquitoes, but Kuhn says he thinks human-centered prevention is more feasible.

“How many mosquitos are out there and are we going to grab hold of them and control all of them and how many humans are out there?,” he asks. “Can we, if we had a vaccine, could we vaccinate people? I think the latter is a more effective control measure.”

The findings were published Thursday in the journal Science.

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