New drug could defeat any virus

Viruses might soon meet their kryptonite: an experimental drug that can, in theory, obliterate cells infected by any type of virus without harming healthy neighbours.

For 50 years, scientists have been fighting viruses in two ways: drugs for existing infections and vaccines to prevent infection in the first place. However, most drugs or vaccines are specific to one virus, viral strain or family of related viruses. When a virus mutates – as they so often do – researchers must retool our medicines.

The new drug targets a molecule common to all virus-infected cells. Nearly every virus generates strings of double-stranded RNA longer than 30 base pairs during replication, in an attempt to duplicate itself and commandeer its host cell’s machinery. Healthy mammalian cells do not produce double-stranded RNA longer than 23 base pairs.

Basically the new drug initiates a cell’s self destruct mechanism as soon as any lengthy molecules of double-stranded RNA arrive in an infected cell. Learn more here or here.

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