A team of scientists reports that a small molecule compound showed significant success in controlling the infectivity and spread of three polyomaviruses in human cell cultures. To date there has been no medicine approved to treat such viruses, which prey on transplant recipients, people with HIV, and others whose immune systems have been weakened.
The compound, known by the abbreviated name "Retro-2," was able to protect the vast majority of cells in cultures when it was administered even after infection began. According to results published this week in the journal mBio, 12 days of treatment with Retro-2 kept 90.5 percent of cells free from JC Polyomavirus, 89 percent of cells clear of the BK Polyomavirus, and 84 percent of cells protected from the SV40 polyomavirus. Infection rates and virus production were much higher among cells in cultures that were similarly infected, but left untreated as controls.
That the compound gained the upper hand on viruses that had a head start is a key advance, said Brown University biologist Walter Atwood, corresponding author of the paper. Other substances have defeated the viruses only if they were used to pre-treat cells before any infection.
"But that's not reality," Atwood said. "The reality is that someone is already infected with the virus. Whenever in the past we first infected the cells with the virus and then came in with the drug, we've never been successful in being able to stop the spread of the virus. This drug is successful at that."
Brown University has a patent filed on the use of the compound against pathogen infections. The research also involved a team of scientists at Yale University led by Professor Daniel DiMaio.
An 'ER' medicine
Retro-2 appears to work by blocking the ability of polyomaviruses to sneak around host cells by hijacking the workings of the intracellular protein transportation hub: the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
|Contact: David Orenstein|