Influenza’s long tail

A long protein tail found in all influenza A virus raises the possibility of novel drugs that can grab on to it and stop the virus in its tracks. The protein tail is present in common human influenza A which kills thousands of people every year as well as rare forms such as bird flu.

US scientists used crystallography to study the long flexible tail of the influenza virus’ nucleoprotein. They found that even seemingly insignificant changes to the structure of this protein tail prevent it from fulfilling a key role in viral replication. That is, they prevent them from linking together to form structural columns used by the virus to transmit copies of itself.