New Delhi: Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee have identified a molecule that can kill the Chikungunya virus. The scientists have claimed that the molecule’s anti-viral activity achieved around 99% reduction in the virus.

Chikungunya virus is a mosquito-borne virus that has reemerged and is widespread in India, posing a potential public health threat. Currently, there is no anti-viral drug or vaccine commercially available for the treatment of Chikungunya fever.

There were 9,175 cases of Chikungunya recorded in India this year till 29 April. At least 62,268 cases of Chikungunya were recorded in 2017 and 64,057 in 2016.

The research was conducted under a project of Department of Biotechnology (DBT), ministry of science and technology. The research team led by Shailly Tomar, professor at Department of Biotechnology, IIT-Roorkee, used structure-based studies of Chikungunya virus specific nsP2 protease enzyme to identify molecules —Pep-I and Pep-II—that exhibited protease inhibitory as well as anti-viral activity.

“The nsP2 protease is a strict viral enzyme. Means it is absent in humans, and thus, is an excellent anti-viral drug target for Chikungunya virus. Our research group has targeted nsP2 using biochemical and structure-based approach. We identified a molecule that not only possesses anti-nsP2 activity but also effectively kills the Chikungunya virus in the cell-based assays," Tomar said.

The research showed that one of the two molecules — Pep-I — has higher anti-viral activity against Chikungunya.

Explaining the further work being done in this direction, Tomar said, “The derivatives of PeP-I and PeP-I like molecules are being developed that will be tested for their anti-viral potential in animal model."

“Out of the two molecules, PeP-I is more effective as an anti-viral molecule as no virus was detected in cultured cells at concentration as low as 10 micro Molar," said Rajat Mudgal and Harvijay Singh, research scholars from the Department of Biotechnology, IIT-Roorkee.

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