Researchers Find Drug that Stops Flu Virus from Spreading
Researchers have found a new class of drug that stops flu from spreading and is even effective in the most drug-resistant forms of the virus, says a new study.
The study was led by researchers from University of British Columbia. The drug doesn't allow the virus to spread from one cell to another.
Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and can spread from person to person. The disease usually causes mild symptoms in healthy adults, but can be severe and fatal in some people, like very old adults or young children, or people who have weak immune systems, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency recommends people to get annual flu shots to prevent serious complications.
The influenza virus spreads from cell to cell by using a protein - hemagglutinin - to attach itself to a healthy cell's receptors. It then sends its RNA into the cell and replicates or makes copies of itself. Then the virus detaches from the cell with the help of enzyme neuraminidase and moves to another cell.
"Our drug agent uses the same approach as current flu treatments - by preventing neuraminidase from cutting its ties with the infected cell. But our agent latches onto this enzyme like a broken key, stuck in a lock, rendering it useless," said UBC chemistry prof. Steve Withers, the study's senior author, in a statement from University of British Columbia. The virus is then removed by the body's immune system.
Withers said that viruses today are getting resistant to drugs used to treat them, "leaving us vulnerable to the next pandemic."
Recently, CDC reported that the current vaccination helped just 56 percent of all vaccinated people stay away from flu. The elderly were especially vulnerable to the deadly flu virus strain, according to Reuters Health.
"By taking advantage of the virus's own 'molecular machinery' to attach itself, the new drug could remain effective longer, since resistant virus strains cannot arise without destroying their own mechanism for infection," Withers added.
The study is published in the journal Science Express.