New Drug Makes Viruses Say, “FML!”

A friend of mine brought this awesome news story to my attention the other day:

New drug could cure nearly any viral infection
Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Lab have developed technology that may someday cure the common cold, influenza and other ailments.

From the article:

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them — including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. “In theory, it should work against all viruses,” says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

It’s really rather mindboggling to imagine a drug that can work against all viruses and that specifically targets only those cells that are infected with a virus, leaving all non-infected cells unharmed. Imagine a world where we don’t have to worry about everything from the common cold to HIV to Ebola. Rather unbelievable.

Of course, whenever I hear of something that sounds too good to be true, I have to wonder what the catch is. Because the development of a wonder drug sounds like the kind of thing that one might see at the start of a zombie apocalypse in a horror movie. Needless to say, given my love of virology and my apprehension about zombies, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this developing story.

Here’s the full article, if you are interested in reading such things.

Image Credit: From the Wikimedia Commons.

Comments |2|

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  • Re: Zombies: I make no claims to being an expert here, but aren’t most humans infected with one kind of herpesvirus or another? And wouldn’t killing all the herpesvirus-infected cells in, say, our brains, be problematic?


  • You know, I was wondering about the same thing. But my understanding is that the thing that the drug targets – double stranded RNA (dsRNA) – is only made in those infected cells in which the virus is actively being replicated. I think that cells which are infected with a virus that is lying dormant (such as herpes, chicken pox, etc.) would not be killed by the drug because they aren’t replicating and thus there is no dsRNA for the drug to target. Of course, if I’m right about that, then the drug would also not be able to eliminate cells in which herpes is lying dormant. (Cavaet – I’m basing this on reading this one paper + my very shaky recollections from a virology class I took more than a decade ago, so I could be totally wrong about that!)


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