"New drug could cure nearly any viral infection", proclaimed the media. The drug works by targeting a type of RNA (dsRNA) produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. “In theory, it should work against all viruses."
Currently there are relatively few antiviral therapeutics, and most which do exist are highly pathogen-specific.
The MIT researchers developed a new broad-spectrum antiviral approach, called Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer (DRACO).
DRACO selectively induces apoptosis in cells containing viral dsRNA, rapidly killing infected cells without harming uninfected cells.
The drugs were nontoxic to mammalian cells and effective against 15 different viruses, including dengue flavivirus, arenaviruses, bunyavirus, and H1N1 influenza. Dengue fever has invaded Florida and there are no effective antiviral agents to treat dengue infection at this time, according to a recent NEJM review (http://goo.gl/0gEXH).
DRACOs have the potential to be effective therapeutics or prophylactics for numerous clinical and priority viruses, due to:
- broad-spectrum sensitivity of the dsRNA detection domain
- potent activity of the apoptosis induction domain
NPR Video: How a Flu Virus Invades Your Body: "It starts very simply. A virus, just one, latches on to one of your cells and fools that cell into making lots more. Lots, lots more, like a million new viruses. This animation shows you how viruses trick healthy cells to join the dark side".
New drug could cure nearly any viral infection. MIT News.
Rider TH, Zook CE, Boettcher TL, Wick ST, Pancoast JS, et al. (2011) Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22572. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022572