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Promising new drug still 10 years off.

A newly-tested compound destroys several viruses, including the deadly Spanish flu that killed an estimated 30,000,000 people in the worldwide pandemic of 1918. This lead compound--which acts by increasing the levels of a human antiviral protein--potentially could be developed into a new drug to combat the flu, a virus that tends to mutate into strains resistant to anti-influenza drugs.

'The virus is 'smart' enough to bypass inhibitors or vaccines sometimes. Therefore, there is a need for alternative strategies. Current drugs act on the virus, but here we are uplifting a host/human antiviral response at the cellular level." explains Beatriz Fontoura, associate professor of cell biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. According to the National Institutes of Health, Atlanta, Ga., influenza hospitalizes more than 200,000 people in the U.S. each year, with about 36,000 fatalities related to the illness. Worldwide, flu kills about 500,000 people annually.

In the latest cell testing, the compound successfully knocked out three types of influenza as well as a smallpox-related virus and an animal virus. Because of the highly contagious nature of the 1918 flu, those tests took place at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, one of the few places that stores and runs tests on that flu strain.

The compound is among others that the research team is testing that induce an infection-fighting human protein called REDDI. Until this study, researchers had not demonstrated that REDD1 had this important antiviral function. "We've discovered that REDD1 is a key human barrier for infection," relates Fontoura, "Interestingly, REDD1 inhibits a signaling pathway that regulates cell proliferation and cancer."

The research team tested 200,000 compounds for those that would inhibit flu virus infection. A total of 71 were identified. Using the two most promising compounds, researchers next will work to strengthen their potencies for further testing. Fontoura indicates it can take more than 10 years before successful compounds are developed into drugs.

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Please note: Some tables or figures were omitted from this article.

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Title Annotation:Influenza
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2012
Words:340
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