We're crossing our fingers...
It seems like we hear scary news surrounding the Zika virus every day—but once in a while, a reassuring update comes along. This time, the news is more hopeful than frightening: Researchers may be on their way to discovering a possible treatment for the virus.
A team composed of researchers from Florida State University, Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health have published a study in Nature Medicine identifying a possible course of treatment for Zika. There's still a need for more testing, of course, but research indicates that existing drugs (like Nicolsamide, which is used to treat tapeworm) might be able to stop the virus.
According to the research, certain existing drugs may be able to prevent the Zika virus from replicating in the body and/or protect fetal cells from damage. As we've previously reported, when a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, it puts her growing fetus at great risk for microcephaly, a disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development.
The study's findings still need to be tested further. But here's the good news: While it could take years to develop a new drug to treat the virus, this particular research is focused on testing the effectiveness of medications that already exist. Because of this, they can be prescribed by doctors immediately...after researchers are able to identify an effective, safe course of treatment for pregnant women, that is. That's why the researchers looked at 6,000 medical compounds that are either FDA-approved or are in the midst of clinical testing already.
Ask the Expert: Zika Virus and Pregnancy
“It takes years if not decades to develop a new drug,” study author Hongjun Song, PhD, said in a release for this news. “In this sort of global health emergency, we don’t have time. So instead of using new drugs, we chose to screen existing drugs. In this way, we hope to create a therapy much more quickly.”
Obviously, we hope this research pans out: Zika is a global health crisis at this point, with the CDC urging pregnant women to avoid visiting a growing number of locations where the virus is active. So stay tuned...