Chikungunya: New therapy option against the increasingly common virus

The scientists used a new strategy for the search for treatment options against Chiungunya and identified with their help both already known drugs and a new class of compounds, which offers the potential for use as an antiviral drug, reported the Ludwig-Maximillians-University Munich( LMU), from whose side the pharmacist Franz Bracher was involved in the investigations. Not only against Chikungunya, but also against other pathogenic viruses, the discovered substance class could be used, so the researchers hope. The scientists have published the results of their study in the journal "Nature Communications".

With an innovative approach, researchers have discovered new treatment options against Chikungunya infections that could also be used against other pathogenic viruses.(Image: jarun011 / fotolia.com) With an innovative approach, researchers have discovered new treatments for chikungunya infections that could also be used against other pathogenic viruses.(Image: jarun011 / fotolia.com)

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

Viruses Need Human Proteins for Propagation
The researchers took advantage of the fact that pathogens for propagation require certain proteins that are produced by the host cell. In a first step, Thomas F. Meyer and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology first identified, with the aid of genome-wide screening, those proteins that the virus absolutely needs for its multiplication in affected human host cells. In an elaborate automated procedure, the researchers switched off "every single gene of the human cells, infected the cells so changed and then analyzed the extent of virus multiplication," according to the LMU.In this way, scientists were able to identify more than 100 human proteins that are essential for the replication of the virus.

inhibit viral replication
Based on the findings, the researchers analyzed in cooperation with virologists from the Institut Pasteur( Paris) as well as researchers from the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Steinbeis Innovation Center in Berlin and the Institute of Technology in Tartu( Estonia) and the working groupby Franz Bracher at the LMU in a next step, which substances trigger these important human proteins. Substances that may also inhibit virus proliferation include drugs that are already used to treat other diseases but have not yet been considered for the treatment of viral infections, as well as novel low-molecular-weight drugs, such asso-called inhibitors of the protein kinase CLK1, which were synthesized in our laboratory, "reports Franz Bracher of the study results.

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New Antiviral Drugs Possible
Interestingly enough, the discovered class of substances can not only be used against the Chikungunya virus, but could also act against other pathogenic viruses. According to the first findings of the researchers, the principle seems applicable to other pathogenic viruses, the LMU reports. Franz Bracher emphasizes that the innovative approach not only identifies well-characterized active substances from other therapeutic indications for use against a specific infectious disease, and then puts them on the market relatively quickly as anti-infective agents. There is also the opportunity to identify "completely new classes of compounds as potential agents", as in the case of our kinase inhibitors, Bracher continued.(fp)

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

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