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Freiberg AntiviralIn our 25 years in microbiology, Dave, we’ve seen a lot of progress against infectious diseases. At the same time, new pathogens have emerged and now, some are resistant to our most effective drugs.

That’s why the "magic bullet" idea is so intriguing. Nearly a century ago, scientists began looking at the idea of broad spectrum drugs that would be effective against a number of infectious agents.

Today research here at UTMB and at UCLA has identified a molecule that’s effective against some of the world’s most deadly viruses, including Ebola, HIV, influenza and more.

Here’s how it works.

The viral world can be divided into two types — enveloped and non-enveloped. Enveloped viruses are surrounded by the membrane of the cell it infected.

Non-enveloped viruses like polio emerge from an infected cell naked or without any membrane.

Enveloped viruses, like HIV and hepatitis C, use their membrane coating to fuse with cells and infect them. This is where scientists have found a way to disrupt the virus by using a small molecule called LJ-double-O-one.

In the lab, when scientists injected mice with this antiviral molecule, the molecules bound to the membranes of cells and viruses. While cells could repair their membranes from the damaging effects of LJ001, viruses could not.

That’s because cells have the intercellular machinery they need to fix themselves — but viruses don’t.

They’re simply virus particles tucked into a cell’s membrane, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That’s why the virus can’t fix the damage done by LJ-double-o-one which in turn destroys the virus’ ability to fuse with cells and infect them.

So far, LJ-double-o-one is shown to be effective against more than 20 viruses representing 11 groups. If human trials are successful, this tiny molecule could prevent or limit many viral diseases.


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For more information…

A broad-spectrum antiviral targeting entry of enveloped viruses
Mike C. Wolf, Alexander N. Freiberg, Tinghu Zhang, et al.
Primary journal article describing the initial characterization of LJ001 and how it inhibits a broad group of enveloped viruses.
Published online before print January 28, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909587107

Galveston National Laboratory
Website that describes the Galveston National Laboratory. Links describe the facility that is the only BSL4 laboratory on a university campus in the US. Additional information about the safety programs and a virtual tour of the lab are provided.
For more information…

Compound found that targets wide range if viruses
Press release by UTMB that describes the work that was performed in the UTMB’s Robert E. Shope, M.D. Laboratory, the Biosafety Level 4 lab where much of the cell-culture work was done.
For more information…


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