Antiviral treatment: universal vaccine in development

As the outbreak of the corona virus shows, viruses are a constant threat to humanity, and new antiviral treatment would be a sensible step. Scientists regularly develop vaccines against certain viruses, but this process takes a long time. In addition, these drugs do not help everyone in need of protection, yet still expose people to new outbreaks and new viruses.

Time for new antiviral treatment

woman holds pill against influenza and water glass in hand

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers recently discovered a potential antiviral drug that could lead to treatments that protect against a variety of infectious diseases. So this would be a comprehensive or universal treatment. Her work suggests that the Argonaute 4 (AGO4) protein is an “Achilles' heel” for viruses.

AGO4 belongs to a family of AGO proteins. So far there has been little evidence of why they are important. However, researchers led by Kate L. Jeffrey and her colleagues found that AGO4 plays a key role in protecting cells from viral infections.

This protein is uniquely virus-inhibiting, especially in mammalian immune cells. The research team examined the antiviral effects of several Argonaute proteins and found that only cells lacking AGO4 were susceptible to virus infection. In other words, low AGO4 levels increase the likelihood of cell infection in mammals.

develop vaccine antiviral treatment laboratory

The scientists suggest that increasing the AGO4 level could strengthen the immune system to protect against multiple viruses. “The goal is to understand how our immune system works so that we can develop antiviral treatment that works against a range of viruses, not just certain vaccines,” says Jeffrey.

Mammals have four Argonaute proteins that are remarkably conserved in several living things, including plants. These are RNAi and micro-RNA effector proteins, and RNAi is the most important antiviral defense strategy in plants and invertebrates. Studies in mice infected with influenza have shown that animals with AGO4 deficiency have significantly higher virus concentrations.

new antiviral drugs in development

The next steps are to “determine how wide the spectrum is for each type of virus,” says Jeffrey. “Then we have to find out how we can increase AGO4 to increase protection against virus infections.” The study was published in Cell Reports.

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