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Antivirals could limit outbreaks in crowded places like schools, cruise ships

Although the compounds work in the lab, researchers have not yet started testing them for safety or efficacy in therapeutic uses.

Stephen Feller
Kyeong-Ok Chang, front, a professor of diagnostic medicine pathobiology, and Yunjeong Kim, associate professor of diagnostic medicine pathobiology, in their laboratory at Kansas State University, where they have developed broadly-neutralizing antiviral compounds that may help stem the spread of sudden outbreaks. Photo by Kansas State University
New developments in antiviral drug research may lead to compounds that can either quickly stem an outbreak in a crowded place or prevent one entirely.
Researchers at Kansas State University and Wichita State University report they have developed broad-spectrum antiviral compounds that could help stop the spread of common viruses such as noroviruses and rhinoviruses.
The common pathogens often cause outbreaks in small, crowded spaces such as schools, restaurants or cruise ships similar to the outbreak of "vomiting disease" late last year in California.
"Antivirals are therapeutic tools, but you could also use them as a preventative measure if you expect to come into contact or if you are recently exposed to viruses, especially if you belong to high-risk groups because of pre-existing health concerns," Yunjeong Kim, an associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University, said in a press release. "That way, when you are exposed, you can have the antiviral in your system already."
The researchers' patented compound is unique because it has a spiral-shaped structure that does not break up easily in the bloodstream. Once it reaches target cells, it invades the cell and inactivates the viral enzyme produced during replication -- preventing it from growing and spreading.
While the compounds appear promising, the researchers caution they have not been tested for efficacy or safety yet, and so are years away from possible use for treatment.
"Like any drug development, potential compounds need to satisfy many additional requirements, including cell safety and stability, and eventual antiviral efficacy in the body," said Keyong-Ok Chang, a professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University.

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