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Antiviral agents

Existing drugs identified that could fight Zika virus

By screening 6,000 drugs for anti-Zika properties, researchers found three potential therapies against the Zika virus.

Micrograph of Zika virus particles


Source: National Institutes of Health, NIAID / Science Photo Library

A number of existing drugs were identified as having anti-Zika virus (pictured) activity, which could have a significant impact on the development of therapeutics for the disease

Given the time required to develop vaccines, therapies against the Zika virus are urgently needed. 

In a recent paper, US researchers screened 6,000 existing drugs and drug candidates for potential anti-Zika properties using an enzyme activity assay and a cell viability assay. 

They found that one compound, emricasan (in development for use in chronic hepatitis C infection), prevents Zika-related neural cell death and a second compound, PHA-690509, can inhibit viral replication within neural cells. 

They also discovered that niclosamide – an anthelmintic drug that has been used for nearly 50 years and is thought to be safe for use during pregnancy – can prevent Zika replication. 

The findings should have a significant impact on the development of Zika therapeutics, but animal studies will be critical to confirming efficacy and toxicity, the researchers conclude in Nature Medicine (online, 29 August 2016)[1].

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2016.20201673

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Supplementary images

  • Micrograph of Zika virus particles
  • Micrograph of the Zika virus

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