Brown Researchers Join Study To Understand Changing Viruses

Aug 9, 2017

Viruses and bacteria are constantly evolving. As their genes mutate, they develop ways to evade human and medical defenses. Now, a team of researchers are studying just how these mutations work.

To do that, scientists at Brown University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Idaho are editing genes in viruses and bacteria.

One of the viruses they’re focusing on is respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which often affects infants and young children. The virus is developing resistance to antibodies in our immune systems.

The key to this resistance is a specific protein within the virus, called the fusion protein.

Brown University chemist Brenda Rubenstein says when the virus mutates, it can change the shape of that protein. When that happens our antibodies can’t bind to the virus.

“We’re trying to understand how do antibodies actually fuse with the fusion protein, and what do mutations to the fusion protein result in, in terms of antibodies being able to bind to it,” Rubenstein said.

RSV is just one of several types of virus and bacteria the researchers will look into over the four years of the study.