Existing drugs used to tackle dangerous new viruses
Scientists are constantly searching fornew methods of combating harmful viruses, but it's not alwaysnecessary to create fresh drugs to deal with new threats. Ateam of researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Glasgow and Nottingham in the UK has foundthat a group of drugs currently used to treat conditions such as depression might alsoprove an effective means of combating emerging viruses.
Developing new drugs isn't an easyprocess, requiring a huge amount of research and testing. Researchprojects consume a lot of time a money, and don't always givepositive results. Turning to existing drugs, which have already beenproved safe for human use, cuts out a large chunk of the developmentprocess, potentially making it cheaper, faster and easier to find new treatments.
With that approach in mind, the University of Leeds researchersfocused on the Bunyavirus family, which includes life-threateningpathogens such as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic virus and Hantaviruses.These are becoming increasingly prevalent, and have highmortality rates, and the virus family presents the risk of becoming aglobal problem.
Testing showed that existing drugs,specifically the anti-psychotic haloperidol, the anti-depressantfluoxetine and the local anesthetic bupivacine, are effective atinhibiting ion channels that regulate potassium levels, blocking the ability ofbunyaviruses to infect cells. No notable effects were observed when the researchers tested the drugs against anothervirus family. It'sbelieved that different viruses target different ion channels tocreate a favorable growth environment, and that bunyaviruses specifically target potassium ion channels.
Further testing will be necessary toconfirm the results, but the data is very promising, and highlightsthe possible benefits of assessing existing drugs to tackle newthreats.
"If existing drugs are confirmed tobe effective against known members of a particular virus family, thisopens up the possibility of using these 'off-the-shelf' treatments ina rapid response against dangerous new related virus strains thatemerge," said the University of Glasgow's Dr Alain Kohl.
The findings of the new study werepublished in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Source: University of Leeds