New compound fights multiple viruses

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A new broad spectrum antiviral could be used against HIV-1, Nipah, Ebola and other deadly viruses.

Because viruses mutate so quickly, specific anti-virals can lose their efficacy quickly. But an anti-viral that attacks a feature common to whole classes of viruses has no such limitation.

A group of researchers led by a team from UCLA has identified an antiviral small molecule that is effective against numerous viruses, including HIV-1, influenza A, filoviruses, poxviruses, arenaviruses, bunyaviruses, paramyxoviruses and flaviviruses.

These cause some of the world's deadliest diseases, such as AIDS, Nipah virus encephalitis, Ebola, hemorrhagic fever and Rift Valley fever.

The compound — a rhodanine derivative that the researchers have dubbed LJ001 — could also be effective against new, yet-to-be discovered enveloped viruses.

US Food and Drug Administration–approved broad spectrum antivirals do exist but are rare - many produce unwanted side-effects, for example. But the researchers say LJ001 is non-toxic at appropriate doses.

LJ001 works in a surprising way, according to UCLA's Dr. Benhur Lee.

"WThe small molecule binds to both cellular and viral membranes, but its preferential ability to inactivate viral membranes comes from its ability to exploit the biogenic reparative ability of metabolically active cells versus static viral membranes," he said.

"That is, at antiviral concentrations, any damage it does to the cell's membrane can be repaired, while damage done to static viral membranes, which have no inherent regenerative capacity, is permanent and irreversible."