Chikungunya: New therapy option against the increasingly common virus

Chikungunya: New therapy option against the increasingly common virus

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New class of substances as potential medication for chikungunya and other viral infections
The Chikungunya virus was originally mainly distributed in the tropics, but in recent years the first regional outbreaks have also occurred in Europe. In the search for treatment options against Chikungunya, an international team of researchers has now discovered, among other things, a new substance class of potentially antiviral drugs.

The scientists used a new strategy to search for treatment options against Chiungunya and used them to identify both known active ingredients and a new class of substances that offer the potential for use as an antiviral drug, reports the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich (LMU). , from whose side the pharmacist Franz Bracher was involved in the investigations. The discovered substance class could not only be used against Chikungunya, but also against other pathogenic viruses, the researchers hope. The scientists have published the results of their study in the journal "Nature Communications".

Spread of the virus in Europe
According to the LMU, the Chikungunya virus has spread northwards in recent years and has already reached the south of the USA. Some regional outbreaks are also documented in Europe. The virus is transmitted by the Asian tiger mosquito and the consequences are flu-like symptoms that last for months and in rare cases can even lead to death. With neither a vaccine nor an approved drug against Chikungunya currently available, the international research team was looking for new approaches to treating the viral infection. For this, the scientists used an innovative strategy with which new treatment options could be established faster than before - and the corresponding active ingredients identified -, reports the LMU.

Viruses need human proteins to reproduce
The researchers took advantage of the fact that pathogens require certain proteins for reproduction to be produced by the host cell. In a first step, Thomas F. Meyer and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology used genome-wide screening to identify the proteins that the virus absolutely needs for its multiplication in infected human host cells. In a complex, automated process, the researchers "switched off every single gene in human cells, infected the cells that had been changed, and then analyzed the extent of the virus replication," the LMU said. In this way, the scientists were able to identify more than 100 human proteins that are essential for the multiplication of the virus.

Inhibit virus replication
Based on the knowledge gained, the researchers analyzed in cooperation with virologists from the Pasteur Institute (Paris) and researchers from the Charité University Medicine Berlin and the Steinbeis Innovation Center in Berlin as well as the Institute of Technology in Tartu (Estonia) and Franz Bracher's working group at the The next step for LMU is which substances target these important human proteins. The substances identified, which can also inhibit the multiplication of the virus, “include both drugs that are already used for the therapy of other diseases but have not yet been considered for the treatment of viral infections, as well as novel small-molecule drugs, such as so-called inhibitors of the protein kinase CLK1, which were synthesized in our laboratory, ”reports Franz Bracher of the study results.

New antiviral drugs possible
Interestingly, the discovered substance class can not only be used against the Chikungunya virus, but could also act against other pathogenic viruses. According to the researchers' initial findings, the principle seems to be transferable to other pathogenic viruses, reports the LMU. Franz Bracher emphasizes that the innovative approach not only identifies well-characterized active ingredients from other indication areas for use against a specific infectious disease and can then be brought onto the market relatively quickly as anti-infectives. There is also an opportunity "to identify completely new classes of substances as potential active substances," as in the case of our kinase inhibitors, Bracher continued. (fp)

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