A compound that destroys several viruses, including the deadly Spanish flu that killed an estimated 30 million people in the worldwide pandemic of 1918, has been tested by UT Southwestern Medical Center investigators.
The compound - which acts by increasing the levels of a human antiviral protein - could potentially be developed into a new drug to combat the flu, a virus that tends to mutate into strains resistant to anti-influenza drugs.
"The virus is 'smart' enough to bypass inhibitors or vaccines sometimes. Therefore, there is a need for alternative strategies. Current drugs act on the virus, but here we are uplifting a host/human antiviral response at the cellular level," said Dr. Beatriz Fontoura, associate professor of cell biology and senior author of the study.
In the latest cell testing, the compound successfully knocked out three types of influenza as well as a smallpox-related virus and an animal virus.
Because of the highly contagious nature of the 1918 flu, those tests took place at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, one of the few places that stores and runs tests on that flu strain.
The compound is among others that the research team is testing that induce an infection-fighting human protein called REDD1.
The study has been published online in Nature Chemical Biology.