New drug could cure almost any virus

By Shayna Brouker • Published: November 28th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’re sniffling and sneezing through yet another cold and flu season, grab another tissue and take heart: Our seasonal battle with viruses may one day be a thing of history. Researchers have developed a new drug that may be able to cure just about any viral infection, from the harmless yet bothersome common cold to the deadly Ebola virus.

Viral infections have until now resisted antibacterial treatment. But a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed a drug that can target and destroy only cells infected by any type of virus. The wonder drug, called DRACO [Dray-co], stood up against 15 different viruses tested in the study by mimicking human cell function.

DRACO prevailed by latching onto d-s-R-N-As, which human cells produce when they have been infected. Normally, after infection, human cells send a signal to self-destruct, but viruses stay one step ahead and block this reaction. DRACO beat viruses at their own game by binding to virus-infected cells and instructing them to self-destruct. But they’re smart enough to leave healthy cells alone.

Based on this idea, DRACO could theoretically combat any virus. Some of the fifteen other viruses these bug-beaters have busted include rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H-1-N-1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and a few other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The team already tested DRACO in mice with encouraging results, and while it’s no certain precursor for success in humans, the prognosis just might be promising. Researchers hope to try the drugs in large animals, and eventually, in humans.

The possibility of a cold- and flu-free winter certainly has its appeal. But until then, keep storing your sick days and be sure to stock up on cough syrup, vitamins, tissues and tea. No one likes a cough-ridden co-worker!