(HealthyResearch.com) – Current antivirals are difficult and complicated to make, so the possibility of discovering a broad-spectrum antiviral medication would be like finding the Holy Grail in viral medicine. Sometimes, it takes looking outside the box for a new type of solution to become visible — and the potential treatments that could come from this most recent discovery are about as out-of-the-box as they come. We have the details about this groundbreaking research.
How Antivirals Work
Viruses and bacteria function very differently, so researchers have to take different approaches when it comes to finding effective treatments. Most antibiotics are able to tackle a wide variety of bacteria. There are antibiotics that work against “gram-positive,” “gram-negative” or a “broad spectrum” of bacterial strains.
Antiviral treatments are much more limited than antibiotics, however. Antivirals must each be tailored to target specific proteins in a given virus, and because there are such vast genetic differences between viruses, an antiviral designed to treat influenza, for example, might not be effective against anything other than the specific influenza it was designed to treat.
Evolution of Approaches
Researchers have found overlaps in target proteins between some viruses, meaning newer approaches could have wider applications if researchers look in the right areas. This makes the possibility of developing broad-spectrum antivirals more achievable, although the treatments are still limited to specific proteins. This also doesn’t solve an additional problem: viral mutation, which can allow the pathogens to adapt around antiviral treatments. To solve this, some researchers are taking a novel approach.
Thinking Outside the Box
A recent study by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital at the Harvard Medical School showed that levels of a protein naturally produced in mammals, Argonaute 4 (AGO4), may play an important role in fighting off viral infections. Studies on mice show that low AGO4 levels in the body cause higher susceptibility to infection, allowing for a higher viral load, while elevated levels may be able to keep a broad variety of viruses from taking hold. If researchers are able to develop a medication that can naturally boost AGO4, they may actively use the body’s own immune system to fight off a wide variety of viral infections — without the possibility of the infections being able to adapt. There’s still research to be done and trials to be run before a viable drug can come to market, but the groundwork is very promising.
With the threat of old and emerging infections ever-present, it’s important that we find new ways to fight all of them. Viruses present unique challenges, but possible new treatment options are on the horizon. A broad-spectrum, immune-based antiviral medication could be the future in treating a wide variety of currently untreatable diseases.
~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!
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