Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Exciting development in antiviral research

I recently heard, via the BBC's excellent Science in Action programme, about an exciting new development in the fight against viral diseases.

The research, published in PLoS One, describes a radical new approach to antiviral treatment.  It relies on the fact that most viruses produce long sequences of double-stranded RNA, which is rare in mammalian cells: our cells generally only produce short sequences of double-stranded RNA. In an ingenious technique, the researchers have found a way of killing cells with long sequences of double-stranded RNA.

This, at least in theory, has the advantage of being a very general method of attacking viruses, which means that not only should it be effective against a wide range of viruses, but it should also be difficult for viruses to develop resistance (although viruses are devious little buggers, so no doubt they'd find a way eventually).

The research is at an early stage, and is some way off clinical trials in humans. There are many things that could go wrong between here and eventual clinical use. If you asked me to guess, I'd have to say the chances are that in the end it won't work, at least as currently envisaged.

However, results in cell culture and even in mice do look extremely promising. If this does end up working in humans as well, it will be unbelievably awesome, and potentially the most exciting advance in medical science for decades.

Watch this space.

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