Drugs Identified To Fight Zika Virus

“Three already existing drugs have been identified to fight against Zika virus, protect pregnant women and their developing fetuses,” according to a new multi center study report.

Researchers have identified these three potential Zika treatments in the laboratory by screening 6,000 different compounds that included already-approved drugs and clinical trial drug candidates.

Emily Lee, a graduate student of molecular biology at Florida State University in Tallahassee and co-author of this study said, “We specifically in this screen tried to take advantage of compounds that are already FDA-approved or in some stage of clinical development.”

Drugs to Treat Zika Virus

The main carrier of Zika virus is mosquitoes. The virus affects pregnant women, as it leads to a birth defect called microcephaly (born with undersized heads and underdeveloped brains) in babies. So it’s really necessary to develop a drug to fight Zika virus. The three drugs identified to fight against Zika virus are:

  1. Niclosamide

    It is available in market for tapeworm infection treatment. But according to the research, this drug has some antiviral properties that hinders Zika virus from replicating.

  2. PHA-690509

    This drug is highly effective and is currently in development. The drug works by interfering with gene expression.

  3. Emricasan

    Researchers are waiting for approval of this medication from U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This drug doesn’t directly fights Zika, but may help to protect the brain cells of developing fetuses against viral damage. Emricasan hinders a natural process that leads to programmed cell death.

According to Lee, “Emricasan wouldn’t necessarily be good for treating infections by itself as it can’t stop the infection, but maybe it can be used to buy time and protect the cells against the infection.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Zikavirus is currently being actively transmitted in two areas of metropolitan Miami and has achieved epidemic status in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, and is widespread throughout Central and South America.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, expert of infectious diseases said, “Possible repurposing of existing compounds that may be already in use for another indication is an important part of developing a rapid response to an emerging infectious disease outbreak such as Zika.”

According to a senior associate with the UPMC Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Adalja, “This new data is very promising and may lead to effective antiviral therapies against Zika. However, it will be equally important to develop a concept for how these drugs could be used.”

Zika Symptoms:

Most of the people infected with Zika virus won’t have any symptoms or will only have mild symptoms including fever, joint pain, rashes, red eyes (conjunctivitis), headache and muscle pain, etc.

Most of the people don’t have any symptoms of Zika and are unable to recognize that they’re infected. As according to Adalja, “It is extremely difficult to effectively intervene on asymptomatic patients given that they have no symptoms and thus no signal that they are harboring the virus.”

According to Lee, “if the antiviral drugs prove effective and get approval from U.S. Food and Drug Administration then public health officials might choose to deploy them in areas that are highly infected with Zika virus.”

She also said that if people are being used as reservoirs for the virus, they need to start proactively treating populations where Zika is in circulation, to stop the circulation. However, she also warned people against buying Niclosamide, the only one of the three drugs already on the market, for off-label use against Zika at this point.

“Even if we think it’s going to work, we don’t want to take a chance with people. We just don’t know enough about it yet. Wait and see what our groups come up with.”

Source: The study was published Aug. 29 in Nature Medicine.

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