Scientists at the University have made a significant discovery in their efforts to develop a vaccine against Zika, Hepatitis C and dengue viruses that affect millions of people around the world.
In a study published in Science Immunology, researchers have shown that natural killer cells, a fundamental part of the body’s immune system, can recognise many different viruses through a single receptor.
The Southampton team have shown that this natural killer cell (NK cell) receptor is able to target a part of the virus called the NS3 helicase protein which coats the virus.
Scientists have discovered that unlike other proteins, the NS3 helicase does not change, which means the immune system can successfully locate it, allowing the NK cells to deal with the threat to the body.
Lead researcher Salim Khakoo, Professor of Hepatology, said the findings are very exciting and could change the way viruses are targeted by vaccines.
The NS3 helicase protein could be the key in unlocking the defence of lethal viruses that affect so many people around the world. We believe that by targeting this NS3 helicase region, we could make a new type of vaccine based upon natural killer cells, which can be used to help protect people from these infections.