A team of University of Oxford scientists, including Exeter College’s Fellow in Molecular Virology Professor Ervin Fodor, has discovered the molecular machine that drives the spread of the flu virus.
The team from the University’s Dunn School of Pathology has uncovered the structure of a key component involved in the spread of influenza C virus. Integral to viral replication, polymerases are enzymes that copy the viral genome and produce messenger RNA which is then used to make building blocks for new virus particles.
Influenza C is a variety of flu, a viral infection that altogether affects approximately 3 to 5 million people every year, leading to between 250,000 to 500,000 deaths around the world. Understanding the atomic structure of this polymerase could be a major step forward, supporting the development of drugs that prevent it from functioning, effectively “disarming” the flu virus and making it unable to spread.
Professor Fodor observed: “The polymerase we have mapped is key to the virus’s ability to replicate. If we can understand its structure, we can better understand how it works. This means we could be able to create drugs that target this polymerase to prevent the virus spreading. Understanding the structure also means we may be better placed to understand the processes by which bird flu viruses adapt to infect humans and cause viral outbreaks.”