Scientists have pinpointed two drugs that may stop the spread of Zika virus in the body and prevent its transmission from mothers to newborns, according to a report published this week in the journal Nature Medicine.
Since Zika’s worldwide outbreak became an international emergency last year, there’s been a mad scramble for ways to control the disease. So researchers from Johns Hopkins and Florida State University began a search for already-existing drug compounds that could also be used to treat the virus. And they believe they’ve found them: One compound is already used in a drug called Nicolsamide to treat tapeworm. The other is being tested for treatment of liver diseases.
“It takes years if not decades to develop a new drug,” Hongjun Song, one of the report’s directors, said in a statement. “In this sort of global health emergency, we don’t have time. So instead of using new drugs, we chose to screen existing drugs. In this way, we hope to create a therapy much more quickly.”
Since the first compound is already on the market, doctors could theoretically prescribe it to Zika patients today, Science Daily notes. But in reality, more tests are needed to see exactly how effective the drug is at treating Zika in humans and design specific treatment plans. This process could take years, Dr. Guo-li Ming, one of the article’s co-authors, said in a statement.
Zika is a mosquito-borne disease that, while having mild symptoms, can be risky for pregnant women because of its tendency to cause birth defects in newborns. It’s currently especially prevalent in South and Central America, though 70 countries and territories have reported evidence of the virus since 2007. There have been more than 2,500 cases reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While these two newly-identified drugs may take years to become mainstream Zika treatments, they’re a promising look into what could be a Zika-free future.