We’re still a long way off developing new drugs to combat them, but scientists have finally cracked the code used by a major group of virus to spread infections such as the common cold, Ebola, hepatitis C, HIV, and polio around the body.
This newly discovered code has been hiding inside the sequence of ribonucleic acid (RNA) – a nucleic acid involved in the coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes – that makes up the genome of the single-stranded RNA viruses group, which is considered one of the most potent and debilitating of groups of infectious pathogens. And once the scientists found it, they were able to decipher it.
“We have understood for decades that the RNA carries the genetic messages that create viral proteins, but we didn’t know that, hidden within the stream of letters we use to denote the genetic information, is a second code governing virus assembly,” one of the team, biophysicist Roman Tuma from the University of Leeds in the UK, told Laura Donnelly at The Telegraph. “It is like finding a secret message within an ordinary news report and then being able to crack the whole coding system behind it.”
Single-stranded RNA viruses are the most simple type of viruses known to science, and it’s thought that they were probably one of the first to evolve. And being around for a long time means they’re super-effective at what they do. Rhinovirus, which is the predominant cause of the common cold, is responsible for 1 billion infections per year – in the US alone. Via Scientists have figured out how to stop the common cold in its tracks.