February 27, 2013
Watch Out Flu, Scientists Are Coming for You
The Science Daily website recently published information that people worldwide will appreciate. The information deals specifically with combating the flu virus. According to the article, an international group of scientists, including Simon Fraser University virologist Masahiro Niikura and doctoral student Nicole Bance, have found an incredible discovery for controlling and eliminating the influenza. In fact, the new class of molecular compounds are capable of killing the flu virus. Killing it! That means less and less flu infections and flu-related deaths.
The article explains that current anti-influenza drugs, like Tamiflu and Relenza, have been increasingly less effective because the flu virus has adapted to and resisted these drugs. For now, though, they are doctors’ main means of fighting off the flu, so if the flu virus mutates to combat the drugs, then that means the drugs will eventually become obsolete in their abilities to fight off the flu.
So, here is how Tamiflu and Relenza work. They focus on interrupting the ability for the enzyme called neuraminidase to help the flu “detach from an infected cell’s surface by digesting sialic acid, a sugar on the surface of the cell. The flu virus uses the same sugar to stick to the cell while invading it. Once attached, influenza can invade the cell and replicate.”
Tamiflu and Relenza help prevent the flu from attaching and replicating. However, they have become less and less effective in recent years, so doctors and scientists around the world have been trying to find a new means to fight and kill the influenza virus. And they think they have done it with the newly discovered molecular compounds.
The compounds have been found to come to the rescue of the still-healthy cells, those that have not had flu attached to them yet. What the compounds do is clog the neuraminidase, which in turn stops the enzyme from dissolving the sialic acid. If the enzyme cannot dissolve the sialic acid, then the virus cannot escape from an infected cell to spread to another cell. Viola…flu virus killed.
According to the Science Daily article, “The new compounds are also more effective because they’re water-soluble. ‘They reach the patient’s throat where the flu virus is replicating after being taken orally,’ says Niikura, a Faculty of Health Sciences associate professor.”
Even if these new compounds do not completely solve the problem of the flu virus, they will give scientists more time to develop new and better vaccines for the ever-changing strains of the flu virus. Furthermore, they will provide another drug in the flu-fighting arsenal that doctors use to help their patients.
The flu is bad news. Late in December 2012, I wrote about the importance of the flu vaccine and being healthy. This discovery adds to the fight against the flu. No one likes the flu. No one wants to get sick. If scientists continue to study the flu, its processes, and the ways in which we combat it, then they can only discover new and better treatments. This can only lead to a healthier, less contagious world. Moreover, many people die from the flu, so perhaps the new molecular compounds will minimize those deaths.
We can only hope for all of our sakes.
Image Credit: Photos.com