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Medical researchers hope to ease virus pain

Photo: Researchers hope to ease virus pain
Researchers in Queensland hope they have found a way to reduce the pain suffered by victims of Ross River virus and Chikungunya virus.

Two debilitating diseases that affect India and Australia are in the sights of a team of Gold Coast medical researchers who hope they can ease the pain for victims.

Ross River Fever and the Chikungunya virus are spread by mosquitoes, leaving victims with severe joint pain and inflamed muscles.

Chikungunya, classified as an alphavirus, is re-emerging in India after being dormant for some time.

It also strikes throughout Africa and Asia and has been responsible for millions of cases over the past decade.
Ross River Fever is the most common mosquito-borne infection in Australia, affecting about 5000 people each year.

It is a constant problem in the nation's northern regions and spreads as far south as the western areas of New South Wales.

A team of researchers at Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics, led by Professor Suresh Mahalingam, believe they have found a way to treat the inflammation, reducing the amount of pain that victims suffer.

At present their discovery will not stop someone becoming infected but they hope it will lead to further breakthroughs that will eventually result in a preventative treatment.

Dr Ali Zaid, lead author of a study on the alphaviruses published the journal Nature Microbiology, said they were targeting the body's mechanism that caused the inflammation.

"When we infected mice with Chikungunya, we found that a type of inflammasome known as NLRP3 was activated, which triggered an inflammatory cascade leading to severe joint inflammation and bone damage," Dr Zaid said.

"So we used a molecule which specifically inhibits the activation of NLRP3 and we found that it helped reduce Chikungunya inflammation in mice and also helped reduce bone loss and muscle inflammation.

"We found the same in mice infected with Ross River virus.

"Targeting the inflammasome using this kind of small molecule inhibitor could be an efficient way to treat patients suffering from acute Chikungunya or Ross River virus disease during outbreaks."

Institute director, Professor Mark von Itzstein, said it was hoped the research would lead to the development of new drugs.

"The institute has a significant research program in understanding how viruses cause impact on the human immune system and these new findings provide exciting opportunity in finding new drugs," he said.

AAP, in collaboration with the City of Gold Coast and Gold Coast Tourism, is publishing a range of newsworthy content in the lead-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

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