Melbourne: Australian scientists have determined the structure of a key enzyme that could facilitate the understanding of how deadly viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C infect the human body.

A team of researchers led by Melbourne University scientist Spencer Williams and Gideon Davies from UK-based University of York studied the bacterial endomannosidase as a model for the same human enzyme and successfully determined its three-dimensional structure using state-of-the-art synchrotron technology.

The finding, published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is expected to pave way for a significant advancement in the understanding of how these viruses hijack human enzymes to reproduce and cause diseases, leading to development of new drugs to combat them.

"In past the problem has been that these group of viruses including HIV, Hepatitis C, Dengue fever and West Nile virus were able to bypass the main pathway if inhibited and replicate via a second pathway using this enzyme. Thus for an effective treatment, both pathways need to be blocked," Williams said.

Another researcher Davies said the team hopes that the findings will go beyond the study of viruses and will point the way towards similar treatments for other diseases including cancer.