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More than 40% of people around the globe are at risk of being bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus that causes Dengue fever. Every year, more than 100 million of these individuals are infected. Many develop severe headaches, pain, and fever, but some develop a life-threatening condition where tiny blood vessels in the body begin to leak. If not treated quickly, this more severe manifestation of the illness can lead to death.
In their latest work, featured in the science section of The Times of India, Chapman et al. have identified a number of RNA elements that prevent the virus form being completely degraded by the Xrn1 enzyme of our immune system. In particular, a junction formed by three RNA helixes is critical for stopping this enzyme in its tracks, treatments or vaccines targeting this structure may therefore help reduce illness associated with Dengue and related viruses.