A new wonder drug that can cure any virus may be on sale within a decade scientists predicted last week. Ailments such as the common cold, flu, HIV and almost any other virus could be a thing of the past as research continues on a new drug that targets infected cells and makes them self-destruct. Amongst the list of viruses it can treat are the common cold, flu, most stomach bugs, measles, cold sores, rabies and even HIV which is caused by a virus.
As penicillin is the main antibiotic that treats bacterial infections, so it is hoped that this drug will be the main treatment for viral infections. The research, which is being carried out in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S., exploits the cells’ natural mechanisms against infection. What typically happens is that when a virus invades the body, they hijack cells and make many copies of the virus. During this they create genetic material called RNA. The natural way our bodies protect ourselves from viruses is to make proteins that latch onto the RNA to stop the virus from multiplying. However, viruses soon learn to trick the body and stop these proteins from working. Lead researcher Mike Rider has developed a stage whereby the cells with RNA attached go through a kind of suicide process called apoptosis. This stops the infection in its tracks and prevents further cells from multiplying, finishing off the infection.
Researcher Rider said: ‘It’s certainly possible that there’s some virus that we aren’t able to treat but we haven’t found it yet. There aren’t very many anti-viral drugs out there at the moment.’ Laboratory tests have confirmed that the new drug called DRACO killed 15 viruses, including germs behind the common cold and two types of flu. It also saved the lives of mice given a dose of flu that should have killed them. And the good news is that if the drug is given early enough it can work to prevent any symptoms from appearing. Further studies have shown that it also wards off viruses, meaning it could stop people from becoming ill in the first place.
The news has been welcomed by many scientists around the world but because of the unusual way in which it works much more research is required before the drug becomes available on our pharmacy shelves. It is a step in the right direction however so watch this space.