Note in Science page
Created Aug 13 11, Updated Aug 15 11 12:28
The first broad spectrum antiviral drug go to comments

A revolution in the treatment of viral infections

Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln laboratory have developed a new antiviral drug named DRACO (double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizers) that is effective against ~all viruses.
It was tested on human and animal cells and was effective against 15 tested viruses including some rhinoviruses (common cold), H1N1 influenza (flu), a polio virus, a stomach virus, dengue fever and several other hemorrhagic fever viruses.

H1N1 influenza A (flu) virus CGI. ©

The drug can identify cells that have been infected by a virus – by targeting a type of RNA produced only by infected cells – then kill those cells to terminate the infection! It combine a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that induces cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide). It also includes a “delivery tag” (taken from naturally occurring proteins) that allows it to cross cell membranes and enter inside cells. However, if no dsRNA is present, DRACO leaves the cell unharmed.
Could be on pharmacy shelves in a decade!...

In theory, it should work against all viruses

Most of the tests reported in this study were done in human and animal cells cultured in the lab, but the researchers also tested DRACO in mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. When mice were treated with DRACO, they were completely cured of the infection. The tests also showed that DRACO itself is not toxic to mice.

Rider says he hopes to license the technology for trials in larger animals and for eventual human clinical trials.

n.b. As the drug is not directly targeting the virus but the infected host cells, it will be very difficult for the virus to become resistant! (unless it doesn’t provoke any reaction from the infected cells … by being harmless!) ... it’s the “perfect” drug… except maybe for wide spread infections where killing all the infected cells might kill the host! (is probably just for early-stage treatment!)

p.s. Couldn’t this kind of system be used to target and kill cancer cells!? ... but it’s not easy to find and track a molecular target that is exclusively cancer specific.

Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics (PLOS one article)

MITnews article

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