Horsetalk (Internet) 09/14/06 Biomedical researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have taken an important early step toward developing effective drug therapies against Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, a virus that kills hundreds of thousands of horses a year and is even considered a potential bioterrorism threat. The researchers have determined the precise structure of a protein the virus requires for replication. Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne VEE virus periodically ravage Central and South America, infecting tens of thousands of people and killing hundreds of thousands of horses, donkeys and mules. It is hoped that therapeutic medicines could be available for trials within two years. "This protein is crucial to VEE virus replication, and we want to create drugs that will turn off such proteins," said Stanley W. Watowich, senior author of a paper on the research to be published in the September 12 issue of the journal Structure.