We have been noticing that some viruses have been making their return to publications, both in the general media and peer-reviewed scientific journals – if in fact they ever went away. So this week we have an update on several viruses that are having major impacts around the world. Mosquitoes, in particular the species Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, Anopheles, and Culex pipiens, spread several bacterial, viral, and parasitic illnesses including Chikungunya virus, dengue fever, malaria, West Nile Virus (WNV), Zika Virus (ZKV), and several forms of encephalitis.1 An interesting new publication in Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, found that a conserved peptide, TPVGRLVTVNPFV, is present in Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile virus (WNV). In addition, nearly 70% of the peptide identity was also found in the Zika virus (ZKV) envelope protein. The peptide contained both T and B cell epitopes and could be a possible starting point for a future vaccine.2
The Zika virus is primarily a mosquito-borne illness that causes the most damage to unborn babies if transmitted during pregnancy, leading to microcephaly.3 The World Health Organization still lists 61 countries as affected, with densely populated areas having a better chance of epidemic exposure.4 Recent research into vaccines includes screening of epitopes with high binding affinity. One such possible epitope is the peptide, VEMGEAAAI.5
The Ebola virus, which is transmitted to humans primarily by bats and non-human primates, is highly deadly and has no approved treatment or vaccine.6 A new publication in mBio looks at mutations in the Ebola glycoprotein, and in particular, one mutant that “abolished infection”.7 This discovery may aid in the search for a vaccine.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the body’s defense system, in particular the CD4 or T cells, making it vulnerable to a host of other ailments. At the present time, there is no cure for HIV, although it can be managed. In 1994, a patient was first identified whose own immune system was able to control HIV. In a recent Science publication, researchers report on the discovery of amino acids within a peptide that play a role in natural HIV control. These peptide epitopes act as “HIV controllers” that keep the virus in check.8,9 In other interesting news, in Nature, scientists have seemingly cured mice of HIV-1 using a combination of the gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, and long-acting slow-effective release antiviral therapy (LASER ART).10
We invite you to take a deeper dive and read more in the references below.
- P. Slathia & P. Sharma, Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 65, 238 (2019).
- P. Sharma et al., International Journal of Peptide Research and Therapeutics, (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10989-019-09818-2
- J.M. Fels et al., mBio, 10, e01408 (2019).
- G.D. Gaiha et al., Science, 364(6439), 480 (2019).
- P.K. Dash et al., Nature, 10(2753), (2019).