IIT Roorkee researchers working on a drug to combat Chikungunya

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Roorkee: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee have discovered the anti-viral potential of the drug piperazine and determined the mechanism to combat the deadly Chikungunya, an infectious viral disease, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes infected with virus. The research, recently published in the ‘Antiviral Research’ a Journal of Elsevier publishing group talks about the potential of piperazine as a pharmacotherapeutic agents and how binding these molecules to the hydrophobic pocket of capsid protein, present in the Chikungunya virus, offers a new perspective for therapeutic intervention, thereby inhibiting the spread of the virus.

Piperazine is a drug commonly used in deworming treatments against roundworm and pinworm. Scientists using their expertise in virology and structure biology discovered antiviral potential of piperazine and determined the mechanism of inhibition of Chikungunya virus using macromolecular crystallography. Using X-ray crystallographic technique, in combination with computational biology and fluorescence techniques, the researchers found that piperazine binds itself well with the hydrophobic pocket on the alphavirus capsid protein. This pocket is key to the replication of the virus and its spread inside a host. This inhibition of this pocket prevents budding and spread of the virus and can help in treating the virus effectively using existing drugs.

Talking about the research, Dr. Shailly Tomar from the Department of Biotechnology at IIT Roorkee said, “Chikungunya is becoming a major public health concern with many people being affected by it year on year. There is no vaccine or antiviral drug available in the market for the cure of chikungunya currently. The treatment focussed on relieving the symptoms associated with the virus infection. Developing a new antiviral drug molecule can take over a decade and that is the reason why we are looking at repositioning existing, approved drugs and testing these to see if they might inhibit or kill pathogenic viruses.”

“Our research has showed that piperazine, a drug existing in the market, is successful in curbing the spread and replication of the Chikungunya virus in a lab setting. We are currently testing the molecule on animals hope to take this to clinical trials soon.”, she added.

The molecular details revealed at the atomic level in this study can be further utilized in a structure-based rational drug design to build piperazine derivative molecules for making it more potent and aggressive in fighting the Chikungunya virus.