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Zika Cure Update: Drugs Used to Treat Cancer, Hepatitis C Shows Promise Against Zika Virus

Aug 30, 2016 04:02 AM EDT
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A team of researchers from John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Florida State University and national Institute of Health has identified three already existing drugs that show potential in fighting off ZIka virus.

Without the luxury of time, researchers are now looking at existing drugs to find a potential cure for the dreaded Zika virus. Their search landed them on three drugs.

The first one is the niclosamide, a FDA-approved drug used to treat parasitic worm infections in humans. On the other hand, the other two drugs are still on clinical trials. PHA-690509 is still under investigation and is being used on cancer patients, while emricasan is still being tested to determine if it can help reduce liver damage in patients with Hepatitis C.

"It takes years, if not decades, to develop a new drug," said Hongjun Song of Johns Hopkins, who worked on the project, in a report from NBC News. "In this sort of global health emergency, we don't have that kind of time."

To identify drugs that can be used against Zika virus, the researchers conducted a large-scale screening of 6,000 existing drugs. Potential treatments for Ebola and Hepatitis C were also discovered using such methods. Using lab-grown human brain stem cells in petri dishes, the researcher tested the three drugs.

Their findings, published in the journal Nature medicine, showed that the niclosamide works by interfering the replication of Zika Virus in brain cells, while the emricasam works by preventing the virus from killing the cells. On the other hand, PHA-690509 was able to stop the virus from replicating and from killing the cells.

Niclosamide has low toxicity in mammals and is considered to be safe to take during pregnancies. At the same time, phase 2 clinical trials of emricasan showed that the drug is well tolerated by humans and has no adverse side effects.

Clinical trials are still necessary to prove that the drugs could show similar results on animals. If the drugs passed the clinical trials, it will be tested to humans. It is still not sure whether the drugs could work on their own or should be taken in a cocktail to have better results.

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