Molecular targets for flavivirus drug discovery

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Flaviviruses are a major cause of infectious disease in humans. Dengue virus causes an estimated 50 million cases of febrile illness each year, including an increasing number of cases of hemorrhagic fever. West Nile virus, which recently spread from the Mediterranean basin to the Western Hemisphere, now causes thousands of sporadic cases of encephalitis annually. Despite the existence of licensed vaccines, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis also claim many thousands of victims each year across their vast endemic areas. Antiviral therapy could potentially reduce morbidity and mortality from flavivirus infections, but no effective drugs are currently available. This article introduces a collection of papers in Antiviral Research on molecular targets for flavivirus antiviral drug design and murine models of dengue virus disease that aims to encourage drug development efforts. After reviewing the flavivirus replication cycle, we discuss the envelope glycoprotein, NS3 protease, NS3 helicase, NS5 methyltransferase and NS5 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase as potential drug targets, with special attention being given to the viral protease. The other viral proteins are the subject of individual articles in the journal. Together, these papers highlight current status of drug discovery efforts for flavivirus diseases and suggest promising areas for further research.

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