New drug yields lab breakthrough against viruses

PARIS – An experimental drug tested on lab animals has shown remarkable success in tackling two viruses, including a close cousin to a feared bioterror pathogen, a study said.

By (AFP)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Mon 24 Nov 2008, 12:34 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:09 AM

The drug, bavituximab, takes a novel tack in confronting viruses, which are notorious for mutations that evade or resist conventional pharmaceutical molecules.

Instead of confronting the intruder head-on, bavituximab waits until the virus has infected the cell.

At that point, a fatty molecule called phosphatidylserine, which is normally positioned on the cell wall’s internal surface, flips to the outside of the cell.

Bavituximab then latches onto the phosphatidylserine, sending a red flag to the body’s immune system to dispatch white blood cells to destroy the infected cell.

In a study in Nature Medicine, published by the London-based Nature group, bavituximab was put through its paces among guinea pigs infected with Pichinde virus—a close relative of the Lassa fever virus, considered a potential bioterror weapon by the Pentagon.

Animals that had not been inoculated with bavituximab were all killed; those who had received the injection had a 50-percent survival rate. By giving the bavituximab group an additional injection with a standard anti-virus drug called ribavirin, the survival rate rose to 63 percent.

The drug also provided 100-percent protection amongst mice exposed to a virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV), whereas only 25 percent of untreated animals survived.

Co-author Philip Thorpe, a professor of pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Texas, said the findings were exciting, for they raised the prospect of a “completely new class” of anti-viral drugs that may also sidestep the problem of mutation.

“By targeting a property of the host cell rather than the virus itself, anti-PS [phosphatidylserine] antibodies have the potential to treat a range of viral infections,” he said in a press release.

“They should be less susceptible to the viral mutations that contribute to the development of drug resistance.”

Bavituximab, a monoclonal antibody, is currently in clinical trials by Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. of California to treat patients with hepatitis C.

Previous research has shown that phosphatidylserine-flipping occurs in cells infected with influenza, the herpes simplex virus, viruses in the families of the smallpox and rabies viruses as well as HIV, UT Southwestern Medical Center said.

More news from