Research into range of mutations provides clues to improve treatment
A team of international researchers, led by Matthias Götte from McGill’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, believes it has found a key factor in understanding why certain drug-resistant strains of the hepatitis C virus are seen so frequently, while others are rarely detected.
It was already known that humans are not infected by a single species of virus, but rather by billions of different, mutant viruses that sometimes differ from one another only by a single nucleotide, i.e. the basic building blocks of viral RNA. The researchers have now demonstrated that the viral polymerase, the enzyme responsible for copying sequences from RNA, is inaccurate in the way it replicates these sequences and as a result generates mutations when connecting one nucleotide after the other. “The surprising finding we had is that some mutations are much more easily made than others,” says Götte.