Molecular compounds may be key to broad-spectrum antiviral

While many illnesses caused by the world's deadliest pathogens cannot be treated, a recent study published in the journal Chemistry & Biology found that several newly developed compounds may be used to treat a range of diseases caused by viruses.

"The medical field currently does not have ideal antiviral therapies, often no therapeutics at all, and the development of broad-spectrum antivirals is a great way to provide treatment in the future," Claire Marie Filone, a postdoctoral researcher at the Boston University School of Medicine and author of the report, said. "Toward that end, we have identified a drug that targets multiple viruses-and may be developed into an antiviral treatment for known and emerging viruses."

Many viruses that cause disease, including the Ebola virus, as well as pathogens that cause measles, mumps and rabies, are non-segmented, negative-strand RNA viruses-known as NNS viruses. While a number of antibiotics work against a wide range of bacteria, viral diseases are more difficult to treat since no safe or highly effect broad-spectrum antiviral exists.

Scientists at Boston University screened thousands of various compounds to identify antiviral molecular elements that could be used against NNS viruses. The research identified a number of molecules that inhibited infection in cells exposed to the Ebola virus and another virus known as the vesicular stomatitis virus.

The molecules, which are related to indoline alkaloids, a class of plant-derived compounds, share a chemical structure that can be modified and used against viruses. The most effective compound identified in the study blocked the transcription of NNS viral genes.

"Because our antiviral targets such a critical step in virus replication, we may be able to develop it into a therapeutic that could be used against many different types of viral infections," Filone said.