The Antiviral Drug Revolution
Yesterday BBC news wrote an article on a new antiviral drug named Draco. No we’re not talking about the Draco from Harry Potter – this new Draco drug has been shown to effectively kill 15 strains of viruses in lab studies with human tissues and mice. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?
There are hopes that Draco or other similar antiviral drugs could be the answer to H1N1, swine flu, bird flu, ebola and other viruses that could potentially start epidemics. Human history and disease forever changed since the antibiotic revolution began in 1928 when Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic properties of penicillium mold.
Since that day, thousands of antibiotics have been created and the average American has over 10 rounds of antibiotics in their lifetime. Scientists see a new revolution coming in drugs – the antiviral revolution, which could be just as impactful and long-lasting as the antibiotic revolution.
Draco is one of the potentially bright future stars of this new antiviral revolution and so many scientists are delighted at the prospects, but I along with others have grave concerns about what this could mean to human health in the long run.
How the Draco Drug Works
According to BBC,
“Natural proteins in an infected cell detect the presence of a virus. These proteins are sensitive to double stranded RNA, a genetic molecule unique to and present in nearly all viruses.
Todd Rider has taken one of these natural proteins and bound it to another natural protein – also present in all cells – that triggers cell suicide.
To help the new protein penetrate a cell, he added a feature that imitates part of the HIV virus, borrowing that virus’ ability to break into cells.
Once administered, the drug travels to every cell in the body but it will only activate in infected cells.
In a matter of hours, the RNA-sensing part of the drug detects the virus and activates the cell suicide part. When the host cell dies, so does the virus.”
Sounds like a perfect cure for viruses, right?
However, one cannot often predict the future without at least a semblance of understanding of the past. If you look at the antibiotic revolution, it did great things for human health by wiping out major diseases that plagued humanity for a long time including infections during childbirth.
But you can also see many of the downsides of the antibiotic revolution:
MRSA and other antibiotic resistant bacteria that are much stronger, much more deadly, much harder to kill, and spread more rapidly than bacteria. In essence, our antibiotics have created even stronger, deadlier, more powerful bacteria. What if the same thing happens to viruses?
The evolution of bacteria clearly outpaces even our most brilliant scientists. What kind of mutations and evolutionary changes will deadly viruses like H1N1, ebola and HIV make in the presence of these antiviral drugs? It’s scary to think of a MRSA-like virus with no cure. Far scarier than H1N1!
Although many scientists are hopeful that Draco could be the answer, it’s more likely that it could just be the beginning of something that will put more money into the pockets of the big pharmaceutical companies while not doing much to help human health in the long run.
What do you think? Will antiviral drugs like Draco save us or hurt us in the long run?