The entire structure of the virus that causes AIDS has been decoded for the first time, a breakthrough that may eventually lead to effective treatments for the disease and others like it, Reuters reports. University of North Carolina researchers, using a new method they liken to zooming out on a map to get the big picture, say they believe the discovery will lead to effective new drugs for HIV and for other viruses that work through RNA rather than DNA, including influenza and the common cold.
The team plans to use the new understanding of HIV's structure to explore how it works and to see if changes can be made to the virus to stop it from replicating. "If it doesn't grow as well when you disrupt the virus with mutations, then you know you've mutated or affected something that was important to the virus," one researcher said. "We are also beginning to understand tricks the genome uses to help the virus escape detection by the human host."