Preventing Paramyxoviral Infection
The paramyxoviruses include serious human pathogens, such as measles, mumps, human parainfluenza, and Hendra (HeV) and Nipah (NiV) viruses. The latter two are the deadliest of the known paramyxoviruses, with a mortality rate ranging between 40 and 92 percent and averaging 75 percent in the latest outbreaks. Furthering the danger, animal-to-human and human-to-human transmission have been reported for NiV, underscoring the need for research and treatment development.
Hector Aguilar-Carreno, Microbiology and Immunology, is working to understand how NiV infects cells, specifically the early events during membrane fusion and viral entry. The results may provide new approaches for prevention and therapy not only for NiV but more broadly for the paramyxoviruses.
Membrane fusion is key for the spread of paramyxoviruses, whether it is fusion between the viral cell and a mammalian cell during viral entry or between an infected mammalian cell and surrounding uninfected cells. This fusion necessitates the coordinated actions of two viral proteins: the attachment and fusion glycoproteins. How their key interactions trigger membrane fusion remains a critical knowledge gap for the paramyxoviruses, including NiV and HeV. Aguilar-Carreno and his group are uncovering the specific mechanisms by which this fusion is initiated, with the aim of providing new targets for antivirals to block critical early steps in disease pathogenesis.