Neutron research in the fight against viral diseases: Covid-19, AIDS, Influenza and others

Proton transfer and drug binding details revealed in neutron diffraction studies of wild-type and drug resistant HIV-1 protease. CREDIT: ILL/Methods in Enzymology

As with HIV before it, Europe’s advanced neutron sources will make an essential contribution to the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Modern analytical tools such as synchrotron X-ray radiation, cryo-electron microscopy and neutron scattering work together to provide indispensable insights into the morphology and functionality of viruses. Neutron scattering’s particular role here is to provide unique information on the chemistry of enzymatic reactions that often involve proton transfer. Recent studies on HIV-1 protease, an enzyme essential for the life-cycle of the HIV virus, perfectly illustrate the case. To fight Covid-19, a variety of neutron scattering methods will be required to get the full picture of the “invisible enemy” the world has found itself at war with.

Here we offer a selection of both groundbreaking and recent articles and papers demonstrating the impact of research at Europe’s large-scale neutron facilities on humanity’s persistent battle against viruses.

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