Grant goes to Purdue University to fund research into life cycle of potential bioweapon viruses

The life cycles of two virus types that could be used as biological weapons will be researched with funding from a National Institutes of Health agency with the hope of creating better treatments against them.

Purdue University has been awarded a two-year, $4 million grant from the 2009 federal stimulus bill by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study flaviviruses, including dengue and West Nile, and alphaviruses, including eastern equine encephalitis and chikungunya. Both types of viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes and, sometimes, by ticks.

More than 50 million people are infected with dengue annually, resulting in approximately 24,000 deaths per year, primarily in tropical regions.

Both virus groups are currently mostly restricted to the tropics but greater global movement by people raises the risk that the viruses could gain a greater geographical range. There is also fear that the diseases could be used as weapons by terrorists as there are few methods for controlling their infection. A better understanding of the life cycle of the viruses, a Purdue spokesperson said, will allow for better ways to defend against attacks.

The researchers at Purdue will study the structural details of the viruses and how antibodies adhere to the viruses to learn how their antibodies work and which sites they bond to. With that knowledge, the researchers hope to find better vaccines and antiviral drugs.

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National Institutes of Health

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