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New Compound Could Keep Bird Flu From Multiplying

April 15, 2009

Scientists have found an artificial compound that seems to halt the duplication of influenza viruses, including the H5N1 bird flu virus.

For years now scientists have been looking for new “inhibitors.” Recently several drugs, like oseltamivir, have started to become unsuccessful in fighting specific flues, like the H1N1 seasonal virus. Specialists now are asking how effective and how long the drug would combat H5N1, should the strain become a pandemic.

Researchers in Hong Kong and the Unites States reviewed 230,000 compounds filed at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and discovered 20 that possibly could confine the production of the H5N1.

The experts announced at a news conference Wednesday that one of the compounds, compound 1 or NSC89853, seemed to have potential.

“We have found a compound that is different from oseltamivir but which acts in the same way,” stated Leo Poon, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong.

“An analogy would be like we have a door with a keyhole, but the hole has changed, and the key, in this case oseltamivir, can’t lock the door anymore,” he said at the conference. “But we have discovered another keyhole and another key which can lock the door.”

Their discovery is printed in the newest issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

In their experimentation, the scientists gave compound 1 to individual batches of human cells afflicted with both the seasonal flu virus and H5N1 and noted that the compound stopped the reproduction of both viruses successfully.

“Given the problems with drug resistance, this compound can be used to develop a new drug,” said Allan Lau, professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Hong Kong.

However, Lau noted that it will most likely take eight years for this kind of drug to hit the market.

Quite a few countries purchase large amounts of oseltamivir and zanamivir, two kinds of drugs that prevent the H5N1 virus from increasing.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in March that 98 percent of flu samples taken from the H1N1 strain were defiant to the oseltamivir drug, made by Roche AG and sold as the brand Tamiflu.

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