The role of sialylation in respiratory viral infection and treatment

Publication Name

Current Medicinal Chemistry


Respiratory infections caused by viruses such as influenza and coronavirus are a serious global problem due to their high infection rates and potential to spark pan-demics, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Although preventing these infections by using vaccines has been the most successful strategy to date, effective vaccines are not always available. Therefore, developing broad-spectrum anti-viral drugs to treat such infections is essential, especially in the case of immunocompromised patients or for outbreaks of novel virus strains. Sialic acids have been highlighted as a key molecule in the viral infection cycle, with terminally sialylated glycans acting as a target for several viral proteins involved in infection, particularly respiratory infection. Inhibitors of one such protein, neuraminidase, are the only anti-influenza drugs currently on the market. Problems with neuraminidase inhibitors, including the development of resistance and a relatively narrow spectrum of activity, drive the need for an improved understanding of the viral infection cycle and the development of more resilient, broader-spectrum anti-vi-ral treatments. Hence, this review outlines the various roles played by sialic acids in respiratory viral infection and provides examples of drugs that exploit sialic acids to inhibit viral infections. It has been concluded that drugs targeting host cell expression of sialic acid could be especially well suited to inhibiting a broad spectrum of respiratory infec-tions. This warrants the continued design and improvement of such drugs in an attempt to lessen the burden of respiratory infections.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering



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