Potential Breakthrough for Viral Diseases Discovered

Dicovery could lead to more effective treatments for influenza, rhinovirus, and HIV.

Each year more than 5 million people around the world become infected with the influenza virus, with up to 10% of cases resulting in deaths. Very young children and elderly patients are particularly susceptible to the infection, which is why these populations are recommended to receive the vaccine for prevention.

Researchers recently made a discovery that could drastically improve the treatment of viral diseases, including influenza, according to a study published by Nature Communications.

"Current treatment strategies are limited as they specifically target circulating viruses and have either unknown or very little effect against new viruses that enter the human population,” said senior author Stavros Selemidis, PhD.

The authors discovered a protein that is activated by viruses, including influenza, rhinovirus, dengue, and HIV. Once the protein is activated, the antiviral reaction becomes suppressed.

The investigators uncovered that a 1.5 billion-year-old cell biological process amplifies viral disease in mice, which may also be present in humans, according to the study.

The protein Nox2 oxidase was observed to be activated by several viruses. Once it is activated, the protein reduces the body’s ability to clear a viral infection and results in a more severe condition.

Specifically, the authors discovered that the Nox2 oxidase is activated by the viruses located in the endosomes. In response, they engineered a chemical to inhibit or dampen the activity of the protein.

The authors found that the drug can effectively suppress disease caused by an influenza infection, according to the study.

"We have identified a protein of the immune system that contributes to the disease caused by flu viruses irrespective of their strain,” Dr Selemidis said. "We also developed a novel drug delivery system to target this protein, which drastically alleviated the burden of viral disease.”

The authors believe that the multidisciplinary approach and collaboration between 8 universities led to the discovery of a mechanism that can be harnessed to improve viral disease treatment.

These findings could be used to treat patients with different viral diseases, ranging from the common cold to HIV. While these findings are very promising, additional studies are needed to determine the overall treatment potential.

"This work identifies a treatment strategy that has the potential to alleviate the symptoms caused by some of the most devastating viruses worldwide, including the flu,” said first author Dr Eunice To.