New Antiviral Target Could Revolutionize Treatments

New Antiviral Target Could Revolutionize Treatments

( – Since the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), researchers have been on the lookout for effective broad-spectrum antivirals. Now, with COVID-19 spreading like wildfire, it’s more important than ever that we find effective broad-spectrum antiviral treatments. A research team at Massachusetts General Hospital may be on the right track.

Pitfalls of Current Antivirals

Current antiviral treatment is limited due to the nature of viruses themselves. They’re more diverse than bacteria, which means you have to take a specific approach for each infection. For example, antivirals developed to fight SARS and MERS might not necessarily be effective against COVID-19, even though the viruses are remarkably similar. Viruses also use parts of their hosts’ cells to replicate, which can make it difficult to find treatments that don’t target the host along with the infection. This has made the development of broad-spectrum antivirals nearly impossible.

Previous antivirals have worked by interfering with different functions necessary for a virus to replicate or adapt. A whole new approach may open the doors to an antiviral treatment capable of treating a broad variety of viral infections, including multiple strains of the flu — maybe even the coronaviruses.

Breakthrough Target

In a recent study, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital uncovered a protein, Argonaute 4 (AGO4), that appears to protect cells against numerous viral infections. Using mice engineered to be deficient in AGO4, the research team tested multiple influenza viruses. The mice that were AGO4 deficient all had much higher viral loads than the mice with normal AGO4 levels.

The team believes the development of a medication that could boost AGO4 in humans could turn the body into an antiviral powerhouse. More studies are needed to determine how many different viruses this approach may be effective against, but the initial results are promising. Now, the research team just needs to develop the drug. This means it could be well over a decade before the actual treatment is available, and researchers will need to raise enough money to see it through.

We have a long way to go before we have usable medications, but breakthroughs like this one show us there’s hope in finding effective treatments against viral outbreaks. We might still be searching for the cure to the next potential pandemic, but we’re closer than ever to finding an antiviral that might cover this one and all that follow. We’ll have more on this exciting advancement as it develops.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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