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August 10, 2011

Possible Cure for Common Cold And Other Viral Infections

For real... at least in mice, but has potential for human application if the promise holds out!

MIT researchers have developed a radical new approach to eradicating viral infections no matter what the virus may be... common cold, HIV, Ebola, polio, dengue fever, etc.

The usual anti-viral antibiotics in use today target the viral replication process which unfortunately often fails with time as the virus adapts and develops resistance to the medication.

The new medication dubbed "DRACO" (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers) approaches viral infections using a totally different approach. It is able to IDENTIFY cells infected with the virus and KILLS the cell itself before the virus has a chance to take over the cell and create more virus copies. As such, the virus itself is not targeted, but rather the infected cells themselves instead.

To use an analogy, let's use an ant colony as the "viral infection". Current antivirals work by trying to pick off the Queen Ant or the ants themselves. DRACO works by destroying the entire colony. It doesn't care about individual ants or where they came from. All it cares about is the colony itself and initiates it's entire destruction.

For those more intellectually curious, DRACO is able to identify "double-stranded RNA" (ds-RNA) which is ONLY found in cells infected with a virus. One part of DRACO is able to identify and bind to this unique viral marker. The other part of DRACO is a protein that signals the cell to undergo suicide (apoptosis) thereby preventing the virus from hijacking the cell to make more virus particles. If a virus can't make copies of itself, no infection can occur.

Given ds-RNA is unique to viral infections, DRACO does not care what kind of virus it is (remember, it is not targeting individual "ants" to use the analogy). As such, whether it be the common cold or the dreaded Ebola virus, DRACO kills virus-infected cells indiscriminately. If no ds-RNA is present, DRACO remains inactive and healthy cells remain unharmed.

The tests reported in this study were primarily accomplished in cultured human and animal cells, but researchers also tested DRACO in mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus. When mice were treated with DRACO, they were COMPLETELY cured of the infection. The tests also showed that DRACO itself is not toxic to mice.

More animal tests are underway and if all goes well... human trials may hopefully occur in the future!

Very promising!

Read a media report on DRACO here.

Reference:
Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Therapeutics. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22572. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022572
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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