Stop replication

Viral genome reveals the way to check attacks on tassar

By Biplab Das
Published: Sunday 15 August 2010

imageEVERY criminal has a weak spot. And so does the virus that attacks silkworms.

Biotechnologists in West Bengal have recently traced the weak spot in the virus that has so far gone scot-free.

Antheraea mylitta cypovirus is one of the most widespread pathogens attacking the tropical tassar silkworm (Antheraea mylitta). It causes chronic diarrhoea in the worm and kills it before it is able to spin silk. Every year, it damages 20 per cent of tassar silk production in India—the second largest producer after China. As of now, there is no way of containing the virus that can spread in epidemic proportions. Researchers led by biotechnologist Ananta Kumar Ghosh of IIT Kharagpur, recently scanned genome of the virus in hope of a clue.

It consists of 11 segments of doublestranded RNA molecules, with each RNA containing genetic material that codes for one or more viral proteins. The scientists studied each segment and found segment-2 codes for an enzyme, RdRp, which helps the virus replicate its genetic material and thus propagate. This is the weak spot and hence an attractive target for anti-viral drug development, they said in the August 15 issue of Virology.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.