F Rosa Rubicondior: Has Creationism's Intelligent Designer Blundered?

Thursday 13 June 2019

Has Creationism's Intelligent Designer Blundered?

New vulnerability found in major human viruses: Structural feature may lead to antivirals for the common cold, polio, and other pathogens -- ScienceDaily

It looks like creationism's Intelligent (sic) Designer might have blundered and built a vulnerability into some of its most annoying viruses - if you believe that creationist view of biology.

The vulnerability comes from the way viruses replicate inside cells. To enter the cell, they need to change the shape of their protein coat, so if the shape of this protein can be 'locked' they would be unable to infect cells.

A team of researchers from the Rega Institute for Medical Research, Leuven, Belgium and the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, believe they have identified a vulnerability in a class of pathological viruses known as picornaviruses or Picornaviridae.

This class of viruses includes rhinoviruses and enteroviruses. Rhinoviruses cause upper respiratory tract infections (common cold) and can exacerbate asthma while enteroviruses can cause infections such as foot and mouth disease, myocarditis, pancreatitis, aseptic meningitis, encephalitis and polio. The researchers have identified an indentation or 'pocket' on the surface of these protein coats which is essential for the virus to bind to the cell wall before uncoating and inserting the RNA contents into the cell. Blocking this site would prevent cell infection and so viral replication.

The teams results were published open access in PLOS Biology two days ago:

Rhino- and enteroviruses are important human pathogens, against which no antivirals are available. The best-studied inhibitors are “capsid binders” that fit in a hydrophobic pocket of the viral capsid. Employing a new class of entero-/rhinovirus inhibitors and by means of cryo–electron microscopy (EM), followed by resistance selection and reverse genetics, we discovered a hitherto unknown druggable pocket that is formed by viral proteins VP1 and VP3 and that is conserved across entero-/rhinovirus species. We propose that these inhibitors stabilize a key region of the virion, thereby preventing the conformational expansion needed for viral RNA release. A medicinal chemistry effort resulted in the identification of analogues targeting this pocket with broad-spectrum activity against Coxsackieviruses B (CVBs) and compounds with activity against enteroviruses (EV) of groups C and D, and even rhinoviruses (RV). Our findings provide novel insights in the biology of the entry of entero-/rhinoviruses and open new avenues for the design of broad-spectrum antivirals against these pathogens.

Creationism's malevolent designer has of course blundered before, allowing human science to eradicate smallpox and rinderpest without managing to mount a fightback the way it does with bacteria and malaria-causing Plasmodium parasites, where it redesignes them to be antibiotic resistant. We seemed on the verge of eradicating poliomyelitis too a few years ago, but that is managing to stage a spirited resistance - hopefully a last stand.

It's by no means all failure for creationism's putative malevolent designer however. It is still redesigning the ebola virus to overcome measures to control it and recently modified the zika virus to produce an especially virulent form for the United States. It remains to be seen whether it puts up a fight over HIV, which recent research showed can be entirely prevented from infecting new victims with appropriate drug treatment. This holds out the hope for eventual elimination of this nasty little product of malevolent design.

It remains to be seen whether, if this approach is successful, creationism's malevolent designer manages to find a work-around, so it can continue making people sick with these viruses.

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