Drug blocks Zika, other mosquito-borne viruses in cell cultures

From Stanford Medicine News Center
December 12, 2017

If there was a Mafia crime family of the virus world, it might be flaviviruses.

Dengue, Zika, West Nile and yellow fever virus — to name the more notorious public health gangsters of this clan — are all mosquito-borne flaviviruses, and they’re notoriously hard to take out. Researchers struggle to find drugs to combat just a single flavivirus at a time.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a way to block a handful of members of the family at once. The approach, rather than killing the viruses directly, is akin to cutting off a crime family’s bank accounts: It revolves around inhibiting access to a complex of proteins in mammalian cells on which the viruses rely when they invade.

“Generally, when you develop a drug against a specific protein in dengue virus, for instance, it won’t work for yellow fever or Zika, and you have to develop new antivirals for each,” said Jan Carette, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology and senior author of the paper, which was published Dec. 12 in Cell Reports. “Here, by targeting the host rather than a specific virus, we’ve been able to take out multiple viruses at once.”

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