Scientists have found that a compound initially isolated from sharks could be used as a unique broad-spectrum human antiviral agent against human viruses ranging from dengue and yellow fever to hepatitis B, C, and D.
The compound, squalamine, has been in human clinical trials for the treatment of cancer and several eye disorders, and so has a well-known safety profile, suggesting it can be quickly tested as a new class of drugs to treat infections caused by these viruses.
In both lab and animal experiments, the compound effectively demonstrated antiviral activity against these human pathogens, some of which cannot now be effectively treated.
“Squalamine appears to protect against viruses that attack the liver and blood tissues, and other similar compounds that we know exist in the shark likely protect against respiratory viral infections, and so on,” said the study’s lead investigator, Michael Zasloff, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery and paediatrics at Georgetown University Medical Centre and scientific director of the Georgetown Transplant Institute.
“We may be able to harness the shark’s novel immune system to turn all of these antiviral compounds into agents that protect humans against a wide variety of viruses,” he added.
The finding has been reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online September 19.