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Conserved binding pocket is net positive for deadly coronavirus strains

Investigators at the University of Bristol and Biognos AB have identified a structural feature that distinguished the deadly coronavirus strains from harmless, common cold-causing variants. The findings, which were published in the Nov. 23, 2022, issue of Science Advances, could form the basis of universal COVID antivirals, putting an end to the endless race to deal with new variants that has so far been a necessity.

The researchers showed that the same pocket, a binding site for linoleic acid (LA), was present in all variants of concern (VOCs) that have emerged since 2020. “Intriguingly, all SARS-CoV-2 VOCs stringently maintain this pocket, notably including Omicron, which accumulated a wide range of mutations in [the spike protein] elsewhere, suggesting that the pocket provides a selective advantage for the virus,” they wrote in their paper.