Doctors May Have Found A New Weapon Against Hard-To-Treat Viruses

It boosts natural immunity.

Most people have been prescribed a routine antibiotic from their doctor to help treat bacterial infections, but things get a bit more complicated when it comes to fighting viral infections. Viruses currently require a more tailored approach for treatment, but that could be about to change. 

A team of researchers led by Michael Gale Jr. of the University of Washington have found that a certain compound is able to trigger genes that regulate the immune response against viruses. 

Millions of people around the world die from complications of influenza, West Nile, hepatitis, and dengue fever each year, but the results of the study, published in Journal of Virology, suggest that this compound could be used to create one treatment that is capable of taking on these diseases caused by ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses. 

"Our compound has an antiviral effect against all these viruses," Gale explained in a news release.

This approach boosts the body's natural ability to take care of these viruses by activating the sequence of events. The compound bonds with RGI-I, a receptor used by the cells to detect the presence of RNA viruses. When this occurs, genes that control the immune response of these viruses become activated and start producing the antibodies needed to attack the pathogen, as well as necessary pro-inflammatory chemicals.

The implications for this are pretty incredible. This means that instead of developing individual drugs to attack all of these different viruses, it's more of a "one size fits all" approach. The sheer amount of people who could be treated using this compound means that it could be mass produced, keeping costs as low as possible.

"It's routine for us to think of broad-spectrum antibiotics, but the equivalent for virology doesn't exist," Shawn Iadonato, co-author on the study, said.

Because this doesn't target the virus directly, it decreases the likelihood that the viruses will be able to evolve and become resistant. This is incredibly important, as antibiotic resistance is making it increasingly challenging to treat diseases caused by bacteria.

It will still be several years before a potential treatment for any of these viruses is made available to humans. Moving forward, a safe and effective dose needs to be determined using animal models before it can begin human trials. 

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