Antiviral compound that targets numerous deadly viruses identified

February 2nd, 2010 - 3:55 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 2 (ANI): Researchers across the U.S. have teamed up to develop and test a broad-spectrum antiviral compound capable of stopping a wide range of highly dangerous viruses, including Ebola, HIV, hepatitis C virus, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever virus and yellow fever virus, among others.

UCLA researchers led by Dr. Benhur Lee worked with researchers from the University of Texas, Harvard University, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Cornell University to identify a compound (which they call LJ001), after screening a selection of 30,000 molecules to find a one that blocked the host cell entry of deadly Nipah virus.

Further testing found that LJ001 also blocked other viruses.

“Once we started testing more and more, we realized that it was only targeting enveloped viruses,” said Alexander Freiberg, director of UTMB’s Robert E. Shope, M.D. Laboratory, the Biosafety Level 4 lab where much of the cell-culture work was done, as well as mouse studies with Ebola and Rift Valley fever viruses.

“We followed up and determined that it was somehow changing the lipid envelope to prevent the fusion of the virus particle with the host cell,” Freiberg added.

Additional experiments indicated that while LJ001 also interacted with cell membranes, whose composition is nearly identical with that of virus envelopes, it caused them no ill effects.

The reason, according to the researchers: Cells can rapidly repair their membranes, but viruses can’t fix their envelopes.

“At antiviral concentrations, any damage it does to the cell’s membrane can be repaired, while damage done to static viral envelopes, which have no inherent regenerative capacity, is permanent and irreversible,” said Lee.

The study appears this week on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Web site. (ANI)

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