Single drug may fight HIV, multiple viral ailments

August 11th, 2011 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 11 (IANS) Scientists may have stumbled on a panacea that has eluded humankind for eons — one which could knock out the common cold, flu, HIV and almost any other infection that you can think of.

It is a lab-created drug that can take on human rhinoviruses, the bugs behind half the colds in adults and almost all colds in children, flu, polio, a gut bug and deadly dengue fever.

Known simply as DRACO, the potent drug is also expected to destroy measles and German measles, cold sores, rabies and even HIV and could be on the shelves in a decade, the journal Public Library of Science reports.

In lab tests, 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, according to the Daily Mail.

Mike Rider of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, who led the study, said: “The discovery of antibiotics revolutionised the treatment of bacterial infections and we hope that this will revolutionise the treatment of viral infections.”

Rider has exploited cells’ natural defences against infection. Viruses are known to hijack cells’ mechanism to make countless copies of themselves. During this process they create long double-stranded strings of the genetic material RNA.

Our cells usually defend themselves by making proteins that latch on to the RNA and stop the virus from breeding. But some viruses can outwit our immune system.

Rider has harnessed a second process called apoptosis, in which diseased cells commit suicide. His drug homes in on cells with double-stranded RNA, stops the infection in its tracks and then kills the cells to finish off the infection.

DRACO works so quickly that if taken early enough it should stop any symptoms from appearing. Tests show it also wards off viruses, meaning it could stop people from becoming ill in the first place.

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