|Influenza Virus - cdc.gov|
They have successfully tested it against a wide range of viral ailments including the common cold, polio and Ebola.
The new drug is called DRACO (Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer) and works by inducing infected cells to kill themselves before the virus can spread.
When viruses invade cells they produce long strands of dsRNA (double strand RNA) which are not normally produced in people or animals. These unusual dsRNA strands are only found in virus-infected cells.
MIT researcher Todd Rider had the novel idea to combine two drugs: One identifies and attaches itself to these distinctive dsRNA strands and the other tricks the cell to 'commit suicide' (apoptosis). This is a normally occurring bodily defense against damaged cells which prevents cancers, auto immune and inflammatory diseases. In fact the average adult body destroys more than 50 billion damaged cells each day.
This combination of therapies, identifying infected cells and inducing them to kill themselves has produced a highly effective and wide spectrum drug that should, theoretically, work against all viruses.
So far it has been effective against all fifteen different viruses they have tried it on. Testing on mice showed DRACO totally cleared the H1N1 virus, cause of the 'swine flu' outbreak in 2009.
Rapid deployment of effective anti-viral drugs, even for newly discovered viruses, can be the difference between a catastrophic pandemic, like the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak that killed 50 million worldwide and a minor outbreak, quickly contained and extinguished.
There are a few anti-viral drugs available today. They tend to be targeted to very specific viruses and are vulnerable to resistance through rapid generic mutations, common in viruses.
Viruses have been linked to serious and chronic medical conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and atherosclerosis, a leading cause of heart attacks.
DRACO may revolutionize medical treatment for viral infections, much as antibiotics led to treatment of routine bacterial infections which were often fatal a century ago. In fact, life expectancy increased by eight years between 1944 and 1972, largely due to the availability of antibiotics.
Finally, real hope exists for the victims of viral infections, from the common cold to AIDS.
Press Announcement is here and technical details can be found here.