In a breakthrough, scientists have discovered a group of naturally occurring compounds in an Australian native plant that can effectively kill the Zika virus. Tests confirmed the compounds halted the virus and stopped it from replicating without damage to host mammalian cells, researchers said. “Our plaque assays found that the extract from this fairly common native plant killed 100 per cent of the Zika infection in cells,” said lead researcher Trudi Collet from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia.
“It is also exciting because of the implications of this work for other viruses. Zika, Dengue, West Nile, Japanese Encephalitis and Yellow Fever are all from the same family of viruses – flaviviridae,” Collet said. “From here, we will work to identify the compounds over the next three to six months, synthesise them and then test them against these other viruses too,” said Collet.
According to USA Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was a 20-fold increase in the number of birth defects in women infected with Zika last year, researchers said. “Zika is becoming more prevalent in developed countries and, once contracted, the virus has been shown to remain in human sperm for six months,” said Mark Baldock, chairman, Health Focus Products Australia (HFPA), which collaborated with QUT for the study.
“This breakthrough brings new hope that we could one day eliminate the virus from people who contract it in the very early stages and remove that prolonged danger and uncertainty,” said Baldock. “The research is in the early stages, but we are aiming to ultimately synthesise the compounds in question and turn our attention to preclinical testing,” Collet said.
Zika is a virus that is closely related to dengue and is spread by mosquitoes and by human sexual activity. While most people experience a very mild infection without any complications, recent outbreaks of the Zika virus in the Pacific and the Americas show that it can be passed from a woman to her unborn baby and potentially cause serious birth defects.