Remember when you went to the doctor for that relentless cough, and all the doctor could prescribe was plenty of fluids and rest? Thanks to a new drug developed by researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, there might be a faster cure for the common cold--as well as potentially any viral infection.
The drug, called DRACO (for double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizers), has already been tested on 15 viruses, MIT news reported. All of which, including the common cold, polio, H1N1, and a stomach virus, have been successfully killed by the treatment.
The study was published in the journal PLoS One in July, and highlights the possibilities for the drug.
A serious threat is posed by viral pathogens, including clinical viruses (HIV, hepatitis viruses, etc.), natural emerging viruses (avian and swine influenza strains, SARS, etc.), and viruses relevant to potential bioterrorism (Ebola, smallpox, etc.).
Unfortunately, there are relatively few prophylactics or therapeutics for these viruses...To overcome these shortcomings of existing approaches, we have developed and demonstrated a novel antiviral approach that is effective against a very broad spectrum of viruses, nontoxic in vitro and in vivo, and potentially suitable for either prophylactic or therapeutic administration.
Our approach...is designed to selectively and rapidly kill virus-infected cells while not harming uninfected cells.
An article by TIME Magazine's Healthland's section explained that the drug works by using the "natural defense systems" of human cells against the viral infection.
In essence, the drug combines the protein in human cells, which instigate a series of reactions that prevent the virus from multiplying, with a protein that tells the infected cells to "commit suicide," or apoptosis.
Todd Rider, a senior staff scientists at the Lincoln Laboratory, told MIT News that he is optimistic about the drug's uses.
“In theory, it should work against all viruses,” he said.
According to the study, researchers are currently testing DRACO against more viruses in mice, and hope move on to testing in larger animals and humans in the future.