Taiwanese researchers report cat disease virus structure

Image from Danny Hsu Shang-te and Chang Hui-wen's research paper
Image from Danny Hsu Shang-te and Chang Hui-wen's research paper

TAIPEI (CNA) — Researchers at Academia Sinica and National Taiwan University (NTU) have made a breakthrough in understanding the structure of the virus that causes Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a deadly cat disease.

FIP, which causes fevers, lack of appetite, and severe inflammation in cats, is usually fatal, as there is currently no known cure or effective treatment for the disease.

At a press conference Thursday, researchers Danny Hsu Shang-te (徐尚德) and Chang Hui-wen (張惠雯) shared the results of their research that was published on Jan. 3 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The pair said that they have successfully created the first detailed model of the spike protein molecules that are found on the surface of the Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV), the virus that causes FIP.

As these spike proteins help the virus infect cells, this finding can assist researchers in figuring out how the disease develops in cats, and could hopefully lead to the development of a vaccine, Hsu said.

Hsu, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Academia Sinica, and Chang, an assistant professor at NTU’s Graduate Institute of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology, also mentioned at the press conference the potential applications of their research method.

Cryo-electron microscopy, which involves freezing a specimen so it remains in its natural state when analyzed under an electron miscroscope, could be used to analyze other viruses, including the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) that was first reported in Wuhan, China, they said.

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