Researchers in California and Brazil said a drug meant to treat and cure hepatitis C could be as effective in treating people infected with Zika, especially in protecting the fetus of an infected pregnant women.
Researchers associated with the University of California San Diego and colleagues in Brazil found that in cellular and mice trials, the anti-viral medication Sofosbuvir, brand name Sovaldi, was effective in repairing cells damaged by Zikaand blocking the transmission of the virus to the fetus of a pregnant mouse.
“This suggests that one, the drug was well-tolerated by the Zika-infected pregnant mice and two, more importantly, that it was able to arrest Zika replication in vivo and stop transmission from mother to fetus,” senior author Dr. Alysson Muotri, a professor in the U.C. San Diego School of Medicine departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, said in a statement.
A Brazilian study has shown that a medication currently used for Hepatitis C can help fight the Zika virus. According to the research, the antiviral Sofosbuvir inhibits virus replication. The group of Brazilian researchers has published their findings today, in the scientific journal Scientific Reports.
The study was conducted by scientists from Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
According to Thiago Moreno, the head of the team, both the Zika and the Hepatitis C viruses have a common protein: RNA polymerase. Sofosbuvir inhibits the protein, preventing the Hepatitis C virus from replicating. “Indeed, we found that Sofosbuvir has the same effects with the Zika virus,” the researchers said.
Scientists have discovered three existing drugs — used for cancer, hepatitis C and for parasitic infections — that they say appear promising against the Zika virus.
The experiments were conducted only in lab-grown human cells in petri dishes, but the results were dramatic. Zika is so devastating that the damage it does has been thought to be irreversible. But the researchers said some of the compounds that the group tested not only allowed cells to live longer in the face of infection — but also in some cases fully recover from them.
The news, reported in Nature Medicine on Monday, is exciting but only a very preliminary step toward a treatment. The researchers will have to test the drugs in animal models to see if they can replicate the results, and if these tests are successful, they will have to start the long process of trying to test the drugs’ effectiveness in humans.