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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More