A single compound could stop several viruses, including rabies and Ebola, in their tracks, new research suggests.
The findings, published today (March 21) in the journal Cell Chemistry and Biology, could eventually lead to a broad-spectrum medicine for many viral diseases, similar to the way antibiotics work on bacterial infections.
"This new approach appears to work on multiple viruses rather than one," said study co-author John Connor, a virologist at Boston University.
With a bacterial infection, doctors prescribe antibiotics without knowing the specific bacteria involved. But such one-size-fits-all treatments for viruses have remained elusive.
Partly, that's because bacteria can live on their own outside cells and have many parts that can be targeted by drugs — some of which are common to several types of bacteria. By contrast, viruses are parasites that co-opt the body's machinery to do their work, so it's much more difficult to find drug targets that will disable multiple viruses without targeting the body's cells as well, Connor said.
"The best analogy is if you're shooting at a bacterium, you can actually shoot at it, whereas if you're trying to shoot at a virus there's a lot of host proteins in the way," Connor told LiveScience.
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