Researchers identify compounds that control hemorrhagic viruses

Veterinarian scientists at the University of Pennsylvania identified and developed compounds that could reduce the ability of hemorrhagic viruses like Ebola, according to two studies recently published in Journal of Virology.

Ronald Harty, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and his collaborators developed compounds meant to stop viruses from budding, a process by which viruses hijack cell proteins so they can replicate. Harty found that compound 0013 was able to block the interaction between the viral protein sequence, known as PTAP, and the human protein Tsg101.

The compound was able to keep viruses stuck to the human cell membrane, leaving them unable to perpetuate the infection.

"By slowing down virus budding, we may allow an individual's immune system a chance to develop a robust and a protective response," Harty said.

The researchers also found two compounds that were strong candidates for blocking another viral protein sequence, PPxY, and its interaction with human cell enzyme Nedd4. By looking for drugs targeting interactions between a virus and a host, the likelihood is reduced that a virus would mutate to develop resistance.

"If they did that, the virus would be compromising its own ability to exit the cell and continue spreading infection," Harty said.

Harty said the drugs could be offered in a cocktail with additional compounds that block other stages of the virus life cycle.

"The main reason we're excited is that, if we can come up with something that's effective, it could have a very broad spectrum appeal," Harty said. "That would give us a great way to protect the military, government workers or first responders from these very dangerous diseases."

The next step for the researchers will be to test the potential antivirals in animal models.