A new compound destroys several viruses, including the one that triggered the deadly Spanish flu, wiping out 30 million people worldwide in the 1918 pandemic.
The compound, which acts by boosting levels of a human antiviral protein, could be developed into a new drug to combat flu virus that mutates into resistent strains.
“The virus is ‘smart’ enough to bypass inhibitors or vaccines sometimes. Therefore, there is a need for alternative strategies,” the journal Nature Chemical Biology reported.
Current drugs act on the virus, but here we are uplifting a host/human antiviral response at the cellular level,” said study co-author Beatriz Fontoura, associate professor of cell biology at the University of Texas Southwestern.
According to National Institutes of Health, flu hospitalizes more than 200,000 people in the US alone every year and kills about half a million people annually worldwide, a Texas statement said.
In the latest cell testing, the compound successfully knocked out three types of flu as well as a smallpox-related virus and an animal virus.
Because of the highly contagious nature of the 1918 flu, the tests took place at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, one of the few places that stores and runs tests on that flu strain.
The UT Southwestern-led research team tested 200,000 compounds for those that would inhibit flu virus infection. A total of 71 were identified.
Using the two most promising compounds, researchers with colleagues at Mount Sinai next will work to strengthen their potencies for further testing. Fontoura said it can take more than 10 years before successful compounds are developed into drugs.