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Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2016; 205 (6): 243. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.n1909
Published online: 19 September 2016

Compounds that suppress Zika virus replication or prevent the death of cells infected by the virus have been reported online in Nature Medicine. Similar to dengue virus and chikungunya virus, Zika virus can cause flu-like symptoms in some individuals. Unlike dengue virus and chikungunya virus, Zika virus infection can also result in the congenital defect microcephaly in developing fetuses, and in Guillain–Barre disease in adults. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine screened a library of approximately 6000 compounds that included US Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs and experimental therapies currently in clinical trials, and identified two classes of compounds: one inhibits the death of cells infected by Zika virus, the other blocks Zika virus replication in infected cells. The two classes of compounds showed activity in several relevant types of brain cells — including human neural progenitor cells and astrocytes — and in 3D brain organoid cultures. The compounds also worked when given either before or after exposure to Zika virus. Finally, the two classes of compounds showed even greater benefits when used together than when given individually. Further research is needed before these compounds can be considered for human treatment, especially of pregnant women. Essential next steps include testing the efficacy and safety of these lead compounds in animal models of adult and fetal Zika virus infection.

  • Cate Swannell


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