A breakthrough has been reported by researchers at Florida State University: Zika-virus-blocking drugs that appear to prevent the disease from being passed to unborn fetuses by mothers who have contracted it. The FSU website hosting the announcement appears to have gone down intermittently with traffic from the FSU Zika news; a cached copy is available with Google.
The FSU-Zika breakthrough involved testing over 6,000 drugs that have already received FDA approval or are in clinical trials, allowing the group to possibly bring a solution to affected mothers as quickly as possible.
Two of the 6,000 drugs tested were described as “capable of inhibiting Zika replication” and “neuroprotective” by Professor Guo-Li Ming with Johns Hopkins who worked jointly on the research with FSU’s Biological Science Professor Hengli Tang. Other institutions involved in the research included the National Institutes of Health, the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, China’s University School of Medicine, the Icahn School of Medicine, and Emory University.
“We focused on compounds that have the shortest path to clinical use,” Tang was quoted about the thinking behind the team’s Zika research. “This is a first step toward a therapeutic that can stop transmission of this disease.
“It takes years if not decades to develop a new drug,” Hongjun Song with John Hopkins was quoted by FSU. “In this sort of global health emergency, we don’t have time. So instead of using new drugs, we chose to screen existing drugs. In this way, we hope to create a therapy much more quickly.”
One of the two drugs that has been identified as successfully inhibiting Zika replication is tapeworm-treatment Niclosamide, which is already approved for use by pregnant women. Florida State University states that “theoretically” a doctor could prescribe Niclosamide to a pregnant mother afflicted with Zika virus “today.”
FSU cautioned that while doctors may be in a position to prescribe Niclosamide that “specific treatment” regimens still need to be studied.
Hengli Tang stated that the probability of babies being born with microcephaly to mothers infected with Zika “doesn’t appear to be high,” but that the consequences are “horrible” when children are afflicted, motivating the members of the group.
On top of the 42 pregnant women reported to have become infected with Zika virus in Florida as of last week, a total of 584 women have contracted the disease nationwide.
According to the World Health Organization, 47 countries are currently experiencing their first Zika virus outbreak and that from 2007 until 2014 only 14 nations experienced outbreaks.
Though the agreed scientific consensus is that Zika virus passed from mothers to infants can cause microcephaly and evidence of the disease being passed sexually is reported, the main mode of transmission of Zika is by mosquitoes.
Other than the severe complications experienced by some babies born to mothers infected with Zika, typical Zika symptoms are reported to be comparable to influenza. No vaccine is available for Zika at present.
“Get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines,” the WHO recommends to those afflicted with the ailment. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.
The WHO states that wearing light-colored, body-covering clothing, “DEET, IR3535, or icaridin”-containing or other effective insect repellents, and keeping mosquitoes out of living quarters using meshed window screens are among suggested ways residents and travelers in Zika-afflicted areas can protect themselves.
The latest figures from the WHO concerning Zika indicate that 1,845 confirmed cases of microcephaly in infants have been reported in Brazil, along with 21 in the United States. In June, Reuters reported on a disparity between confirmed and suspected cases of microcephaly in the South American nation. Suspected cases of Zika-virus-induced microcephaly are thought to be over 4,000.
Tests on infected animals with the promising drugs is reported to be the next step in the FSU-Zika research.
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