Novel antiviral drug concept targets number of human viruses

In laboratory studies, an entirely new approach to antiviral drug development is showing remarkable effectiveness against herpes viruses, a large family of viruses associated with many human diseases. In addition, the innovative strategy targets these viruses at such a fundamental level that it may prove useful against a wide array of other viruses. And because the approach attacks viruses indirectly by making the cells they infect profoundly inhospitable to them, the likelihood that viral drug resistance will develop is thought to be extremely low.

University of Pennsylvania Medical Center researchers reported the findings in a study presented today at the Thirteenth International Conference on Antiviral Research in Baltimore, MD.

"This is a novel approach to the development of antiviral drugs," says Luis M. Schang, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow and first author on the study. "In the laboratory, we and others are seeing significant viral inhibition with drugs that have no toxicity to cells. If the strategy shows similar success in animals and, eventually, in humans, it should be applicable against many different kinds of viral infections."

Schang emphasizes that a good deal of work remains to be done before the new approach can be validated as a viable treatment for viral infections in humans.

Until now, antiviral drugs have sought to attack viruses directly by interfering with essential proteins produced by the viruses. Scientists have long known, however, that viruses are parasites and depend on the cells they infect for crucial support of their life cycles. Using the herpes simplex virus (HSV) as model target, the Penn team discovered that by inhibiting a particular set of cellular enzymes upon which the virus depends they can successfully block all viral activity while causing the host cells no ill effects.

"To date, all effective anti-viral drugs target viral proteins because the thought has been that knocking out a cellular

Contact: Franklin Hoke
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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