Scientists at Saint Louis University have found that a smallpox drug may harbour the cure for a common cold.
The drug, hexadecyloxypropyl-cidofovir or CMX001, currently under development by Chimerix, Inc. to meet the threat of smallpox or monkeypox viruses may be used to target adenovirus.
"This is exciting news and a major step forward in finding a drug to treat adenovirus infections in humans," said William Wold, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and the study's lead author.
"We are pleased to see that CMX001, a drug candidate showing broad antiviral activity that is being developed under a federal grant for smallpox, also has potential benefit against adenovirus," said George R. Painter, Ph.D., president and CEO of Chimerix.
There are 52 known serotypes, or strains, of adenovirus in humans. They generally cause acute upper respiratory infections including colds, tonsillitis and ear infections, but they can also cause conjunctivitis, gastroenteritis and bladder infections.
CMX001 is an oral pro-drug, or derivative, of cidofovir, a drug developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc. to treat a type of retinitis in AIDS patients. Chimerix licensed from Gilead the rights to develop CMX001.
Cidofovir has long been a possible candidate to treat a number of virus infections.
Scientists also claim to have identified an animal model with the adenovirus on which drugs can be tested.
There are currently no drugs approved specifically to treat adenovirus infections in large part because there has been no animal model.
Researchers have now found that adenovirus replicates in Syrian hamsters (also called golden hamsters) with suppressed immune systems in much the same manner as it replicates in humans whose immune systems are weakened.
Using the new animal model, the SLU researchers found that CMX001 provided protection from the adenovirus when it was administered prophylactically (before infection with the virus) or therapeutically (after infection).
The scientists found that the drug worked by greatly reducing the ability of the virus to replicate in key organs, mostly notably the liver.
The study is published in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.