New compound fights AI, but clock is ticking

06-10-2006 | |

A promising new compound discovered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison might help protect people from avian influenza, but it faces a long programme of tests before it could be used in humans.

The new antiviral compound protects against a range of influenza viruses, including avian influenza.
Researchers hope that the compound, which was described online in a Journal of Virology report, could provide an alternative treatment at a time when existing antiviral drugs are losing their potency.
But Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a UW-Madison professor of medical microbiology and immunology, says that the compound’s use in humans is quite a ways down the road. “It may be two to three years before we conduct clinical trials in humans,” she said.
While experimental AI vaccines are being tested, antiviral medications can be used to buy time until vaccines are formulated and produced in large quantities, which can take as long as a year. Existing antivirals are becoming less effective, and it will take time to develop replacements like the one represented in this new peptide-based compound.
The peptide blocks the influenza virus from attaching to and entering the cells of its host, which prevents it from replicating and infecting more cells. It appears to work by thwarting the virus’ ability to latch onto a key cell surface molecule that a virus uses to get inside.
Schultz-Cherry speculated that the development of this and other antiviral drugs could be fast-tracked, but that might only occur in the event of a flu pandemic. “I imagine there would be expedited drugs in the case of a public health crisis,” she said.

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