Discovery of a new feature of a large class of pathogenic viruses may allow development of new antiviral medications for the common cold, polio, and other illnesses.
In a search for potential antiviral candidates, the authors found a compound that stabilized a model picornavirus. They performed cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) of the drug-virus complex to determine how the drug exerted its effect. Cryo-EM involves combining thousands of two-dimensional images to develop a highly detailed three-dimensional image of the target.
Although picornaviruses have been studied for decades, the authors discovered a previously unknown pocket, or indentation, on the surface of the virus, in which the compound had lodged, thereby stabilizing it against the kind of shape change that would allow interaction with host cells.