Tapeworm Drug Could Treat Zika Virus

Researchers frantically searching for Zika virus treatments have identified effective compounds found in existing drugs that could mean a fast-track treatment can soon be implemented.

The scientists, based at Florida State, Johns Hopkins and the National Institute of Health in the United States, discovered one compound that stops the much maligned virus from replicating, and another that prevents it from killing foetal brain cells.

Searching for a Ready-Made Treatment

Florida State Professor, Hengli Tang, said the focus was always on finding compounds with the shortest route to clinical use.

With this in mind, the research group screened 6,000 compounds that had already been okayed by the FDA (the American body responsible for approving the use of pharmaceuticals), with the impetus on finding readily available tools to fix the Zika outbreak as fast as possible. They also tested drugs that were undergoing clinical trials.

Professor Hongjun Song, one of two Johns Hopkins professors working on the study, said it can take decades to develop a new drug.

“In this sort of global health emergency, we don’t have time,” Professor Song said. “So instead of using new drugs, we chose to screen existing drugs. In this way, we hope to create a therapy much more quickly.”

Tapeworm Drug

This sense of urgency led the team to the tapeworm drug Nicolsamide, a drug made up of a compound that fights Zika and has also been approved for safe consumption during pregnancy.

In reality, Nicolsamide is available to patients right now. However, further tests on how best to use it in the treatment of the Zika virus are still needed.

Leading Researchers

What’s clear is that this group of researchers is at the forefront of the battle against the Zika virus. Earlier this year, they proved that it was Zika causing children to be born with disproportionately small heads and brains. The condition is known as microcephaly and was the main focus of media coverage of the virus.

“The probability of Zika-induced microcephaly occurring doesn’t appear to be that high, but when it does, the damage is horrible,” Professor Tang said.

This amazing team of virologists and neurologists continues to work tirelessly to bring an effective treatment into pharmacies around the world.

Author:  Ryan Child

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