Nav: Home

Hidden in plain sight: Well-known drug could yield new treatment for herpes viruses

March 14, 2016

Today, there is only one class of antiviral medicines against herpesviruses -- a family of viruses that cause mononucleosis, herpes, and shingles, among other illnesses - meaning options for treating these infections are limited. If viruses become resistant to these frontline treatments, a growing problem particularly in clinical settings, there are no alternative drugs to serve as backup.

In a search for new drugs to treat viral infections, scientists from the University of Utah School of Medicine found that a medicine routinely used to treat heart failure, spironolactone, has an unexpected ability to block infection by Epstein Barr virus (EBV), a herpesvirus that causes mono and is associated with several human cancers. They find that the drug's antiviral properties stem from its ability to block a key step in viral infection that is common to all herpesviruses. Spironolactone's target is distinct from that of existing drugs, revealing that it could be developed into a new class of anti-herpesvirus drug.

"It's remarkable that a drug we have used safely in the clinic for over 50 years is also an effective EBV inhibitor," says senior author Sankar Swaminathan, M.D., chief of infectious disease at University of Utah Health Care and professor of internal medicine. "It goes to show how basic research can reveal things we would never have found otherwise." In collaboration with research assistant professor of internal medicine Dinesh Virma, Ph.D., and Jacob Thompson, he published the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Swaminathan's team uncovered spironolactone's antiviral properties in a screen to identify drugs that work through a mechanism that is different from that of existing anti-herpesvirus drugs. Currently available drugs block a middle step of the viral infection cycle by inhibiting virus' ability to replicate DNA. They found that like these drugs, spironolactone can block EBV replication in cells, but it does so by targeting the so-called SM protein, required for a late step in the infection cycle.

Importantly, spironolactone's ability to block viral infection appears to be independent from its ability to treat heart failure. Previous studies showed that the drug treats heart failure through a different, metabolic mechanism. This study demonstrates that a drug similar to spironolactone shares its ability to treat heart failure but not its antiviral properties. Together the results suggest the two mechanisms are separable.

"We think there is great potential to modify this molecule so that it can work as an antiviral without having undesired side effects," explains Swaminathan. Spironolactone could be developed as a new medicine against EBV, a common and dangerous infection among transplant and other immunocompromised patients.

But because all herpesviruses depend on SM-like proteins to spread infection, the work also has broader implications. Spironolactone could be a template for a new class of drug directed against all herpesviruses.

"We have found a new therapeutic target for herpesviruses," says Swaminathan. "We think it can be developed it into a new class of antiviral drugs to help overcome the problem of drug resistant infections."
-end-
"Spironolactone blocks Epstein Barr virus production by inhibiting EBV SM protein function" by Dinesh Verma, Jacob Thompson and Sankar Swaminathan will be published online in PNAS

The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute

University of Utah Health Sciences

Related Viral Infection Articles:

Researchers identify immune component up-regulated in brain after viral infection
A new study of infection by a virus that causes brain inflammation and seizures in a mouse model has shown increased levels of complement component C3.
Harnessing CRISPR for rapid detection of viral and bacterial infection
Researchers have created a version of CRISPR-Cas that can be used to diagnose infections, such as Zika and dengue, with a high level of sensitivity.
Viral fossils reveal how our ancestors may have eliminated an ancient infection
Scientists have uncovered how our ancestors may have wiped out an ancient retrovirus around 11 million years ago.
Proteins in your runny nose could reveal a viral infection
It may seem obvious, but the key to confirming whether someone is suffering from a cold or flu virus might lie at the misery's source -- the inflamed passages of the nose and throat.
Inflammation triggers unsustainable immune response to chronic viral infection
Scientists at the University of Basel discovered a fundamental new mechanism explaining the inadequate immune defense against chronic viral infection.
Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material.
Sustained viral remission in SIV infection
Emory and NIAID scientists can achieve sustained control of SIV infection in rhesus macaques, by supplementing antiretroviral drugs with an antibody vs alpha4-beta7 integrin.
UTMB researchers protect against lethal Ebola Sudan infection four days after infection
Researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in collaboration with Arbutus Biopharma Corporation, have protected nonhuman primates against Ebola Sudan four days following exposure to the virus.
Interventions do not improve viral suppression among hospitalized patients with HIV infection
In a study appearing in the July 12, 2016 issue of JAMA, an HIV/AIDS theme issue, Lisa R.
Inflammation from mosquito bites may enhance viral infection
The itchy, red welts that appear after being bitten by a mosquito may help any viruses the insect is carrying pass on to a new host.

Related Viral Infection Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#520 A Closer Look at Objectivism
This week we broach the topic of Objectivism. We'll be speaking with Keith Lockitch, senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, about the philosophy of Objectivism as it's taught through Ayn Rand's writings. Then we'll speak with Denise Cummins, cognitive scientist, author and fellow at the Association for Psychological Science, about the impact of Objectivist ideology on society. Related links: This is what happens when you take Ayn Rand seriously Another Critic Who Doesn’t Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She’s Wrong Quote is from "A Companion to Ayn Rand"