The University of Alberta appears to have hit the nail on the head yet again. With so much inspiring research coming out of this campus, it should come as no surprise that they have made a significant discovery that has the potential to treat viral pathogens such as the Zika virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Scientists from UofA discovered a new and promising class of chemical compounds that is comparable to the naturally occurring isatisine A, an antiviral originally found in traditional Chinese herbal medicine.
“This is both a remarkable scientific discovery and also something that has the potential to positively affect not only global health but also the economy of Canada,” says Fred West, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, who led the discovery along with RSV researcher David Marchant, a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology.
West and Marchant worked in conjunction with Zika expert and cell biologist Tob Hobman, who is also a professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. They tested the compound against potent viruses, such as Zika and RSV, that yielded remarkable results. The compound was active and effective against both viral infections.
The Zika virus, which is a mosquito-borne pathogen, began wreaking havoc in May of 2015 after it had been identified as the culprit behind an outbreak of prenatal defects across South America. It coincided with a 2,700 per cent increase in Brazil from reported cases of microcephaly, an often fatal congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development in newborns.
Whereas, relatively unheard of RSV poses a greater threat to infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. This virus is responsible for up to 30 per cent of hospitalized respiratory cases in any given year.
“What we aim to do is further refine this compound to keep the elements that make it medically active and build in the structural components that make it possible for patients to consume in drug form,” explains West. “We are approaching that point.”
The next stage of drug development is already underway, and with Marchant’s new company Antibiddes Technologies Inc. ready to license the intellectual property and begin commercialisation, this is a promising development that could change the face of viral pathogen treatment.