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Shark-Derived Drug May Treat Viruses

Squalamine Has New Antiviral Properties, Researchers Say
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Squalamine Changes Cell’s Electrical Charge continued...

This includes proteins that are critical to viral replication. Changing the proteins disrupts the life cycle of the virus.

Zasloff says squalamine acts fast to stop viral replication by clearing the body of the invading virus within hours.

He adds that because it works by making the host tissue less receptive to infection instead of directly targeting the virus, viral resistance may not be an issue.

Infectious disease specialist Bruce Hirsch, MD, calls the research intriguing, but he says it is too soon to say if the compound will prove to be a useful antiviral agent in humans.

Hirsch is an attending physician at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

“This approach might be especially useful for viral diseases characterized by ongoing viral replication like HIV and Hepatitis C,” he says. “A strategy like this could prove very interesting.”

But he questions whether a treatment that changes the electrical balance of cells would prove safe for long-term use.

Zasloff says the drug has a proven safety profile and there were few side effects reported in the earlier clinical trials.

“Electrical balance is a vital aspect of cell biology,” Hirsch says. “We are programmed at a basic level to maintain a gradient of electric charge over our cell membranes. I am surprised that there wasn’t toxicity with this.”

The research was funded with grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other public sources.

Zasloff, who holds the patent on the technology used in the study, says he is seeking private funding to study squalamine in humans.

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