New research has found broad-spectrum antiviral agents that could target RNA virus families that pose substantial threats for future outbreaks. The research was led by Gustavo Garcia Jr. of the Molecular and Medical Pharmacology department at the University of California, Los Angeles. It focused on assessing a group of innate immune agonists that target receptors that recognize pathogens.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed almost 7 million lives around the globe since it started in 2020, which has shed light on the susceptibilities of humans to large-scale outbreaks from new pathogens. The coronavirus was caused by the Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 virus).
In their report, the authors state that global climate change and recent epidemics as well as the RNA genome’s evolving nature show that viruses borne by arthropods are primary candidates to help better predict what will cause the next pandemic. These viruses include the Zika virus, West Nile virus, Dengue virus and Chikungunya virus. The scientists note that identifying effective therapies against these viruses is very important because they are possible pandemic agents.
Associate professor Vaithi Arumugaswami at UCLA and senior author of the study explained that the most powerful antiviral agents found were cyclic dinucleotide STING agonists. He explained that a strong host antiviral response brought on by one treatment dose of STING agonist cAIMP was effective in the prevention and mitigation of the severe viral arthritis disease brought about by Chikungunya virus, as observed in mice models. Arumugaswami then noted that this was a promising therapy modality because patients suffering from this particular virus were plagued with viral arthritis even decades after contracting the viral infection.
Arunachalam Ramaiah, a senior scientist in the Milwaukee Health Department and senior author of the study, explained that the Chikungunya virus contributed to strong chemical and transcriptional imbalances in infected skin cells, in comparison to the Zika and West Nile viruses at the molecular level. This would indicate a potential difference in the mechanisms by the viruses, despite them all being mosquito-borne. Ramaiah added that research on the changes in host cells had also shown that cAIMP therapy reversed cells from the harmful effect of dysregulation caused by Chikungunya on immune, metabolic and cell repair pathways.
In his conclusion, Garcia highlights that the team is now focused on developing broad-spectrum antivirals that can be availed in the event of arboviral and respiratory illness outbreaks in the future.
The study’s findings were reported in “Cell Reports Medicine.”
The challenges posed by infectious diseases around the world are being taken on by many for-profit entities such as BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: BVXV) that wish to help patients beat these diseases while also seeing return on the investments that the firms have made to develop the new therapeutics.
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