SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Boston University researchers identify compounds to combat life-threatening viruses

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine recently identified a set of compounds that could lead to the development of a broad-spectrum antiviral to combat illnesses caused by nonsegmented, negative sense RNA viruses.

While a number of broad-spectrum antibiotics exist to fight bacterial infections, no such therapy exists to fight disease-causing NNS viruses like Ebola, Hendra and Nipah, all of which are associated with mortality rates of up to 90 percent after infection.

"Identifying broad-spectrum antivirals is an important step in developing successful therapies against these and other viruses," Claire Marie Filone, a postdoctoral researcher at BUSM and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, said.

In the study published in Chemistry & Biology, researchers identified a class of molecular compounds that blocked a number of viruses from replicating by reducing RNA production. The compounds prevented replication by blocking the transcription of viral genes.

"Because the production of viral RNA is the first step in successful replication, it appears that we have uncovered an Achilles heel to halt virus replication," Filone said. "These compounds represent probes of a central virus function and a potential drug target for the development of effective broad-spectrum antivirals for a range of human pathogens."