Scientific American describes the exciting early findings of Benhur Lee’s (UCLA) work involving antiviral therapy. Lee may have discovered an effective antiviral drug against all types enveloped viruses, including big name killers such as HIV, Ebola, and influenza. The finding comes as a result of research involving Nipah virus.
Because Nipah virus can only be researched in BSL-4 labs, Lee created a hybrid virus by stripping off the envelope of VSV and adding the Nipah envelope to the VSV core. The hybrid virus basically decreased the risk of infection while allowing the researchers to study compounds that could disrupt Nipah envelope function (i.e. binding and fusion to the host cell). A compound, LJ001, was found to bind to lipids in the envelope of both the virus and the host cell. It damages both organisms, but the host cell has the capability of repairing the damage while the virus does not. Because the therapy binds to the lipid envelope of the virus, it has proven effective for all enveloped viruses but not for any nonenveloped viruses. If successful the technique could be effective for a long time because the virus does not have genetic control of its lipids (it acquires them during Egression). Therefore the virus cannot mutate so as to render the drug ineffective.
Though promising, the drug therapy is still in its very stages of research and understanding. One topic of concern is that it may be a lot more toxic in vivo than laboratory tests have shown.