News / Health

Drug Compound Wipes Out Multiple Viral Infections

A nurse, wearing protective mask an gloves reads to a HIV/AIDS patient at the Phra Baht Nam Phu AIDS hospice near Lopburi, Thailand (File)
A nurse, wearing protective mask an gloves reads to a HIV/AIDS patient at the Phra Baht Nam Phu AIDS hospice near Lopburi, Thailand (File)
Jessica Berman

Imagine taking a single pill that could cure almost any viral infection.  Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States say they have developed a drug that, so far, has killed every virus it’s been tested on in the laboratory.  

The drug - known by the acronym DRACO - works by chemically targeting viral-infected cells and prompting them to self-destruct, eliminating the disease in the process.

DRACO takes advantage of the fact that when viruses infect animal cells, they insert pieces of their genetic core - complex strands of nucleic acids called RNA that regulate cell function by switching genes on or off.  This viral RNA wraps itself around the single-strand RNA in the animal cell to form a unique molecule called double-stranded RNA.

By recognizing these double-stranded RNA molecules, DRACO can hone in on virus-infected cells, explains Todd Rider, a senior scientist at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory where the compound was developed.

Rider says that when DRACO detects a cell with double-stranded RNA, it activates a so-called cellular "suicide switch," in much the same way that human cells are programmed to self-destruct if they begin to grow out of control.

“If a cell thinks it’s becoming a cancer cell, it will try to kill itself for the greater good," said Rider. "So in this case, the DRACO treatment is activating the suicide switch in the presence of any double-stranded RNA.  So, it will kill any virus-infected cell.”

Rider says DRACO has been successfully tested in petri dishes against 15 viruses that cause everything from the sniffles to life-threatening diseases.

“So far we’ve cured the common cold, four different strains of the rhinovirus," he said. "We’ve cured H1N1 influenza, two different strains.  We’ve cured a stomach virus; we’ve cured the polio virus, various DNA adenoviruses, dengue hemorrhagic fever and several examples of arenavirus and bunyavirus.”   

The last two viral infections can cause inflammation of the brain.

Rider says there are many more viruses he wants to test DRACO on, including the virus that causes AIDS.  A broad spectrum antiviral drug that works against HIV could be especially useful since some people can develop resistance to anti-retroviral drugs.  

Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agrees that DRACO could potentially work against the human immunodeficiency virus.  But Fauci says a variety of effective drugs are already available to treat HIV.

“So, there isn’t a compelling need to have a drug like this for HIV," said Fauci. "It’s more relevant for those viruses for which we don’t have any good drugs, and there are plenty of those around.”

Fauci says there is a trend in microbial research now to develop catch-all drugs like a universal flu vaccine that would protect against all strains of influenza, and DRACO, with its potential to target and eliminate all types of viral infections.

“The more we learn about the fundamental basics of viral biology and bacterial biology and other microbial biologies, the more opportunities we have to develop interventions such as this particular apparently broad-spectrum antiviral," he said.

MIT’s Todd Rider predicts it could be another decade before DRACO is ready for general use.

An article describing DRACO’s antiviral properties is published in the journal PLoS One.  

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid