A synthetic compound, which appears to be able to stop the replication of influenza viruses, including the H5N1 bird flu virus, has been identified by scientists, reports Reuters.
Researchers in Hong Kong and the US screened some 230,000 compounds that were catalogued with the US National Cancer Institute, and found 20 that could potentially restrict the proliferation of the H5N1. One particular compound - compound 1 or NSC89853 - showed promise.
The search for such new "inhibitors" has grown more urgent in recent years as drugs, like oseltamivir, have become largely ineffective against certain flu strains. It is now questioned how well and how long the drug would stand up against the H5N1.
Leo Poon, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, says that they have found a compound that is different from oseltamivir, but which acts in the same way. "An analogy would be like we have a door with a keyhole, but the hole has changed, and the key, in this case oseltamivir, can't lock the door anymore," he said, adding, "But we have discovered another keyhole and another key which can lock the door."
Experiment with the bird flu virus
The researchers infected separate batches of cultured human cells with seasonal flu virus and H5N1 and found that compound 1 prevented the replication of both types of viruses effectively*.
"Given the problems with drug resistance, this compound can be used to develop a new drug," said Allan Lau, professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Hong Kong. He noted, however, that it could take up to 8 years for such a drug to be available on the market.
* Findings published in the latest issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.