Experimental HCV Drug Could Slow Down Zika Virus

An experimental hepatitis C virus inhibitor was able to slow down the symptoms of Zika in mice.

A recent study found that an experimental hepatitis C virus (HCV) drug slowed down the development of the Zika virus in mice.

The Zika virus is transmitted by the tiger mosquito, but only approximately 20% of people who become infected get sick, according to researchers in a study published by PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

"The biggest cause for concern is that pregnant women with the infection can pass on the virus to the fetus," said Johan Neyts, PhD. "As a result, some babies are born with microcephaly, a disorder of the central nervous system whereby the child's skull and brain are too small. In severe cases, these children grow up with serious physical and mental disabilities."

Since there is no vaccine or antiviral to prevent or treat a Zika infection, the World Health Organization declared a state of emergency in order to contain the epidemic.

"As the Zika virus is related to the hepatitis C virus, we examined whether some inhibitors of the hepatitis C virus also prevent the multiplication of the Zika virus in human cells,” Dr Neyts said. “We have identified at least one experimental drug that is effective against the Zika virus."

The researchers next assessed whether or not the experimental drug protected mice with defective innate immune systems.

Researchers found that when the mice were infected with the Zika virus, they showed similar symptoms as humans, but saw a delay in symptoms after treatment with the HCV inhibitor.

"The experimental hepatitis C inhibitor is not very powerful yet," Dr Neyts concluded. "Nevertheless, our study opens up important new possibilities. We can now start testing the effectiveness of other promising virus inhibitors and vaccines against the Zika virus."