Purdue University researchers study ways to kill MERS virus

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (May 2, 2014) — The fight against the MERS virus has some Hoosier backing.

Researchers at Purdue University showed off a prototype drug molecule that demonstrates what they’re doing to hopefully keep it from spreading, and keep you protected. Those same researchers have been working on finding ways to stop MERS from spreading well before it showed up in Indiana.

“I figured it could potentially get to the United States, you know, hoping it wouldn’t,” said Andy Mesecar, a Ph.D. at Purdue, and Deputy Director of the Purdue Center for Cancer Research.

He says just because it’s in the U.S., more specifically in our own state, now is not the time to panic.

“Right now, tree pollen is high, so I’ve got problems in my lungs because the tree pollen is crazy for me,” Mesecar said.

The MERS virus is on his mind, as well as his team at Purdue. He showed FOX59 a piece of the MERS virus, an enzyme that keeps the virus alive in cells. Mesecar, and his team, has been trying to knock the enzyme out. They invented a prototype drug molecule that inhibits the enzyme, and are trying to improve its potency so it can eventually become a therapeutic.

Remember the SARS scare from several years ago? Purdue researchers are still studying that and are using cross referencing in the MERS fight.

“The molecules that we’ve been working on for the last nine years against the SARS when it came out, we’ve been testing those against MERS,” Mesecar said. “And so we knew, right away, which ones are going to work and which ones are not.”

MERS can give you symptoms of a fever, shortness of breath and a cough, similar to a respiratory illness. It’s best NOT assume you have MERS if you have those symptoms, though. If you were around someone who traveled to the Middle East, it might be a good idea to get tested. Right now, it’s only an isolated case here in the U.S.

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