NEW YORK (March 5, 2009) -- Two highly lethal viruses that have emerged in recent outbreaks are susceptible to chloroquine, an established drug used to prevent and treat malaria, according to a new basic science study by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in the Journal of Virology. Due to the study's significance, a manuscript was published yesterday online, in advance of the print issue, and will be highlighted as an editor's "spotlight" in the first May issue.
The two henipaviruses that are the subject of the study -- Hendra Virus (HeV) and Nipah Virus (NiV) -- emerged during the 1990s in Australia and Southeast Asia. Harbored by fruit bats, they cause potentially fatal encephalitis and respiratory disease in humans, with a devastating 75 percent fatality rate. More recently, NiV outbreaks in Bangladesh involving human-to-human transmission have focused attention on NiV as a global health concern.
The researchers, based in Weill Cornell's pediatrics department, were surprised by their discovery that chloroquine, a safe, low-cost agent that has been used to combat malaria for more than 50 years, is a highly active inhibitor of infection by Hendra and Nipah.
"The fact that chloroquine is safe and widely used in humans means that it may bypass the usual barriers associated with drug development and move quickly into clinical trials," says Dr. Anne Moscona, professor of pediatrics and microbiology & immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College and senior author of the study. She is also vice chair for research of pediatrics at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
"Chloroquine stands a good chance of making it through the development process in time to prevent further outbreaks of these deadly infections," adds Dr. Moscona.
Like the avian flu, SARS, and Ebola viruses, Hendra and Nipah are zoonotic pathogens. That means they originate in certain animals but can jump between
|Contact: Andrew Klein|
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College