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Immune system reveals virus weak spot

Monday September 18th, 2017

Southampton scientists may have made a breakthrough in fighting a major group of viruses by identifying a weak spot known to the human immune system.

The “weak spot” enables natural killer cells to target many different members of the flaviviridae family, including Zika, dengue and Hepatitis C, according to the Southampton University researchers.

The cells use a single receptor, KIR2DS2, which targets the NS3 helicase protein in viruses – and this is a non-variable part, they have reported.

The findings have been reported in the journal Science Immunology.

Researcher Professor Salim Khakoo said: "The NS3 helicase protein could be the key in unlocking the defence of lethal viruses that affect so many people around the world.

“It is very exciting to discover that other viruses similar to Hepatitis C, such as Zika virus, dengue virus, yellow fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus and in fact all flaviviruses, contain a region within their NS3 helicase proteins that is recognised 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."

Naiyer et al. KIR2DS2 recognizes conserved peptides derived from viral helicases in the context of HLA-C. Sci. Immunol. 15 September 2017 [abstract]

Tags: Flu & Viruses | UK News | World Health

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