Scientists discover way to track human and agricultural viruses
By Amy Loeffler
Viruses are molecular thieves that take from their hosts under the cloak of darkness. But now a Virginia Tech scientist has found a way to not only track viral hijackers, but also potentially stop them from replicating.
The discovery has broad-ranging applications in stopping viral outbreaks such as hepatitis C in humans and a number of viruses in plants and animals because it applies to many viruses in the largest category of viral classes — positive-strand RNA viruses.
“Even though these viruses infect very different hosts, they all replicate similarly across the board, so what we learn from one virus can potentially be translated to control viruses in agricultural production as well as human health,” said Xiaofeng Wang, an assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science who recently published his findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Wang’s discovery could target any number of plant viruses. One virus Wang has studied — the cucumber mosaic virus — affects pumpkin, squash, and gourds in 1,200 species in over 100 plant families.
Potentially, sprays could be developed to halt the virus on plants, saving millions of dollars in agricultural sectors.