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Mosquito-borne dengue viruses cause an estimated 50 million cases of human dengue fever a year and are a significant public health threat worldwide. A novel therapeutic approach prevents dengue virus from reproducing in humans by targeting and silencing key regions of the dengue genome essential for viral replication. This innovative treatment strategy and the successful results of initial testing are presented in Nucleic Acid Therapeutics.
Pei-wen Xie, Yu Xie, Xiu-juan Zhang, Hai Huang, Li-na He, Xue-jun Wang, and Sheng-qi Wang, Beijing Institute of Radiation Medicine and Second Artillery General Hospital, Beijing, and Central South University, Changsha, China, identified multiple regions in the dengue virus genome that have maintained the same nucleic sequence over long periods of evolution. These highly conserved regions are ideal targets for antiviral drug development as they are unlikely to mutate and allow the virus to develop drug resistance.
In the article "Inhibition of Dengue Virus 2 Replication by Artificial MicroRNAs Targeting the Conserved Regions," the authors describe how they constructed artificial short strands of nucleic acids called microRNAs that specifically target these conserved sites in the dengue virus genome. Their experiments led to the identification of the most effective combinations of microRNAs capable of inhibiting the virus from replication in humans.
"The dengue virus is endemic in over 100 countries and spreading rapidly," says executive editor Fintan Steele, PhD, of SomaLogic, Inc. in Boulder, Colo. "In the absence of effective preventive measures, new treatments like those being pursued by Xie et al. are desperately needed."