McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Research could help in development of generic antiviral medications

Published: November 30 , 2006
Karen Mossman
Karen Mossman, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, and Patrick Paladino (below) have published a paper on research that could help in the search for generic antiviral medications.

A McMaster University research project into how the body’s immune system fights off a virus may be a key stepping stone towards developing generic antiviral medications to treat outbreaks of emerging diseases in the very early stages.

The project, led by researcher Patrick Paladino, has shown that it is possible for cells to recognize a virus and activate the immune system to fight it much sooner than previously known.

The study will be published in the December issue of the Journal of Immunology. Paladino is a medical sciences PhD candidate working under the supervision of Karen Mossman, associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

Earlier research had uncovered the step-by-step process that occurs within cells and triggers the immune system to fight a virus once it has already taken hold and begun to spread.

Paladino’s research shows that in some cases, that process can be circumvented. It is possible for cells to recognize a virus as soon as it enters the body, before it has started to spread through the cells. The process used by cells to recognize that virus at its earliest stages is different than the way a cell detects the virus entering a cell. Previous research indicated that the innate immune system didn’t kick in until the virus had started to replicate and produce the triggers that signal the immune system to the virus presence.

The new research also shows that the ability of cells to immediately activate the immune system is not specific to a certain type of virus.

Understanding the components of how the cells immediately detect and respond to a virus could help in developing antiviral medicines.

"We hope to facilitate the design of antiviral medications that would work against a large range of viruses, quickly and non-specifically," said Mossman. "Such strategies would be beneficial during outbreaks of new viruses, where vaccines and antivirals are non-existent."

She also noted that this research could have implications in the development of drugs to fight existing viruses such as SARS, influenza and Ebola.

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