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Microbiologists Find New Approach to Fighting Viral Illnesses

By discovering how certain viruses use their host cells to replicate, UC Irvine microbiologists have identified a new approach to the development of universal treatments for viral illnesses such as meningitis, encephalitis, hepatitis and possibly the common cold.

The UCI researchers, working with Dutch colleagues, found that certain RNA viruses hijack a key DNA repair activity of human cells to produce the genetic material necessary for them to multiply.

For many years, scientists have known that viruses rely on functions provided by their host cells to increase their numbers, but the UCI study — led by microbiology & molecular genetics professor Bert Semler — is the first to identify how the RNA-containing picornaviruses utilize a DNA repair enzyme to do so.

Study results appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Aug. 20.

RNA viruses have ribonucleic acid as their genetic material (rather than deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA). Notable human diseases caused by RNA viruses include SARS, influenza, hepatitis C, West Nile fever, the common cold and poliomyelitis.
 
 

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