(2011) Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22572.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022572 Click here to read paper
Every once in a while one encounters a study with such striking clinical
potential that it could radically change the world of clinical medicine. This is one such study. Currently, clinical virologists are (generally) limited to using pathogen-specific antiviral therapies, which is potentially problematic when, at least in the early phases of a viral illness, the pathogen may be unknown. Additionally, because conventional antriviral drugs usually target specific parts of the virus by binding to specific binding sites, mutations that lead to structural changes to the virus where the drug no longer binds properly will lead to drug resistance. In this remarkable study, the authors offer a radically different approach to antiviral therapy based on chimeric constructs known as DRACOs (double-stranded RNA–activated caspase oligomerizers). When tested, this approach proved to be effective against 15 different viruses “including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.” Of course, the possibility DRACOs might inadvertently produce widespread killing of healthy cells infected with nonpathogenic viruses is one dark possibility that will also need to be explored, as well as the possibility that inflammation-related side effects may limit clinical efficacy. Only time will tell whether this approach will win the authors a trip to Stockholm or whether DRACOs end up failing the transition from bench to bedside. Naturally, I am hoping for the former.
For more informaton and commentary, see the following press release: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/antiviral-0810.html