Major step forward in understanding of viruses as scientists unlock exact structure of Hep A virus
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Scientists have announced that for the first time, they have determined the precise atomic structure of the Hepatitis A virus. In an unprecedented step forward, a team of scientists from Beijing and Oxford have been able to map the exact construction of Hepatitis A, down to the individual atoms. This new finding is a considerable advance for research into Hep A, one of the most resilient and difficult to control viruses and more broadly for our understanding of the virus world. The findings are published today, in the publication Nature.
Despite an existing vaccine, Hep A continues to infect 1.4 million people every year. It causes infection of the liver and symptoms can include diarrhoea, vomiting, yellow skin, fever, and abdominal pain. These findings are particularly significant due to the unique qualities of the virus. Hep A is particularly hardy unlike other viruses in the picornavirus family, which includes polio and the common cold. Hep A is able to withstand remarkably high temperatures and remain stable in hostile environments, making it difficult to control infection. It also has a unique, enveloped form, allowing it to shroud itself in the host membrane, making it harder for the body’s immune system to detect.
- Health Care