Illnesses caused by many of the world’s most deadly viruses cannot be effectively treated with existing drugs or vaccines. But this may all be about to change. Scientists have discovered several compounds that can inhibit the highly lethal Ebola virus, as well as the pathogens responsible for rabies, mumps, measles and other pathogenic viruses.
This finding, published in the journal Chemistry & Biology potentially opens up new therapeutic avenues for combating these diseases.
Such treatments are desperately needed. Ebola virus, for example, can be transmitted through direct contact with blood or other body fluids of infected persons or animals, and even close contact with a deceased Ebola-infected body. And mortality rates from ebola can be as high as 90%.
“The medical field currently does not have ideal antiviral therapies, often no therapeutics at all, and the development of broad-spectrum antivirals is a great way to provide treatment in the future,” says study author Claire Marie Filone PhD of Boston University School of Medicine. “Toward that end, we have identified a drug that targets multiple viruses – and may be developed into an antiviral treatment for known and emerging viruses.”
In contrast to the many antibiotics that work against a wide range of bacteria, there are currently no highly effective or safe broad-spectrum drug treatments for viral diseases.
To address this need, researchers screened thousands of diverse compounds for small molecules that showed strong antiviral activity against viruses. They identified several that inhibited infection in cells exposed to either Ebola or vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). These molecules, which are related to a class of plant-derived compounds called indoline alkaloids, share a common chemical structure that can be modified to enhance antiviral activity.
The most potent of these compounds demonstrated a consistent mechanism of action against genetically distinct viruses. It works by blocking viral transcription. Because it targets such a critical step in virus replication, in theory, scientists should be able to develop it into a therapeutic that could be used against many different types of viral infections.
As always, SRxA’s Word on Health will bring you further news as it develops.