We often hear how bad it is to have high cholesterol, but what that cholesterol was the only way to kill a virus? Researchers have successfully used a peptide derived from the hepatitis C virus (HCV) to take down a broad range of viruses, including West Nile, measles, dengue, and HIV — all of which contain cholesterol. It was this characteristic that enabled the peptide to discriminate between viruses and host cells, leaving the latter unharmed.
“Although there are many antiviral drugs on the market, a common problem is that the virus learns how to evade them, becoming resistant to the drug treatment,” said senior study author Atul Parikh, of the University of California, Davis and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in a press release. “There is a growing recognition that new classes of antiviral drugs are needed. Because the HCV-derived peptide appears to meet this need, we reason it targets the Achilles’ heel of viruses — a lipid coating or membrane envelope less likely to become resistant to drugs targeting them.”
Researchers have known for a while now that the HCV a-helical (AH) peptide possesses antiviralproperties, provided those very properties are what allow the peptide to hijack host cell structures for HCV replication. This property also gives the peptide the ability to rip into viral membranes, making the viral genome vulnerable to host enzymes that destroy pathogens. Development of AH centered therapies has been limited, however, by the lack of knowledge surrounding why, exactly, it only attacks virus