Scientists discover new molecules that have potential to fight the flu

Scientists at Rutgers University announced on Friday the discovery of new molecules that can prevent the flu virus from replicating itself in cell culture.

While anti-flu drug Tamiflu is an option against some strains of the flu, it is not an option for every strain. The new discovery of novel compounds may lead to a new class of antiviral medicines that could fight pandemic influenzas such as bird flu.

The scientists at Rutgers sought to create drugs targeting different parts of the flu virus with a method that synthesizes chemical compounds that bind to metal ions in a viral enzyme. While using this method, the scientists discovered they could stop a key part of the flu virus' reproduction.

"We're at a key proof of principle stage right now," Eddy Arnold, the Board of Governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers, said. "It's not trivial to go from this point to actually delivering a drug, but we're optimistic -- this class of inhibitors has all the right characteristics."

The scientists at Rutgers had to collaborate with other schools to use a technology that can give high-resolution images of the enzyme structures. They also worked with Edmond LaVoie, the professor and chair of medicinal chemistry in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, to change the compounds and make them more potent in the way they block the virus' enzyme activity.