University of Hertfordshire researchers have developed a new concept which could lead to the discovery of universal anti-influenza drugs. It is hoped that this new way of including more than 12,000 influenza virus gene sequences will ensure that predicted antivirals are effective against most influenza virus strains. The findings were published recently in the journal Virology.
To predict the drugs, researchers first characterised the drug target – the viral PB2 protein required for the virus to become infectious – by analysing 12,000 sequences to assess its variability and identify constant regions. Secondly, they computationally scanned the PB2 protein surface for binding sites and then screened more than 40,000 molecules for binding. They also screened 1738 small-molecule drugs which have been approved for humans and predicted that the antipsychotic paliperidone binds to the influenza PB2 protein.
The results of this work will enable laboratory-based virologists to test these computationally predicted drugs, in order to take the research onto the next stage.