There may be a major breakthrough on the horizon in the battle against the Zika virus.
The disease, which produces microencephaly in newborns (as in the picture above) among other symptoms, dominated public health concerns for much of the last two years.
Scientists have identified the structure of a key protein, “NS5,” in the mosquito-born virus that could potentially help create drugs to fight it. NS5 assists Zika’s unique genomic replication, which had previously made it difficult to develop anti-viral drugs—Phys.org reports.
University of California, Riverside researchers, who published their findings in Nature Communications, pinpointed an area in the protein structure where an inhibitor could be used to make the virus less potent.
“Our work provides a framework for future studies of ZIKV NS5 and opportunities for drug development against ZIKV based on its structural similarity to the NS5 protein of other flaviviruses, such as the dengue virus,” research team leader Song Hai wrote.
Hai refers to a technique that has been used to develop antiviral medicine to prevent Dengue Fever. Scientists will begin investigating its potential with the Zika virus soon.