Brazilian researchers discover that some commercially available compounds would serve as treatment against this infection

We may be closer than we think of a remedy against yellow fever . Instead of trying to develop a treatment from scratch, researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB) of the University of São Paulo, the Butantan Institute (SP) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (RJ) studied commercially available substances – and found promising options to quell this disease.

This type of research works like this: from a library of previously developed chemical compounds, scientists test one by one in the laboratory to determine which ones would be most effective against a particular disease. In the case of yellow fever, the Brazilian experts evaluated 1 280 molecules .

To do this, they used state-of-the-art devices that quickly analyze how each of these particles reacts to human cells infected with the virus. Of that total of 1,280 active principles, they reached 88 that inhibited the infection by at least 50%.

But that was not enough. “We did confirmatory tests for the potency of antiviral activity and activity against the host cell,” explains immunologist Lucio Freitas-Junior, the study’s coordinator.

Translating, the researchers found that such molecules would be powerful against yellow fever while preserving the human cell. Well, there is little point finding a weapon that kills the enemy if it exterminates you too, does not it?

“In the end, we selected the compounds that were at least ten times more potent against the virus in relation to the cells,” says Freitas-Junior. Of all this work, there are five molecules with good potential to be used as antiviral against yellow fever. And a bonus: two of them also seem to block the action of subtype 2 of dengue .

The next steps

It will take a few more years of work to confirm the findings of the laboratory – even so the names of the substances will not be disclosed. In other words, the selected molecules should be applied to human flesh and blood (and not just a handful of cells) to see if they can contain a yellow fever infection, what dose is needed and so on.

“In any case, this strategy shortens the development time of a drug,” says Freitas-Junior. It is possible that in three years we will have options in the pharmacy thanks to this Brazilian effort – by traditional methods, at least ten before a new drug guarantees its effectiveness and safety.

“We hope to find alternatives quickly for the treatment of outbreaks and epidemics, as is the case of yellow fever now, as it was with zika in the previous year and as should be the case with other problems that are yet to come,” he concludes the expert.

In a press release, virologist Paolo Zanotto of the ICB celebrated his colleague’s research: “This success implies the possibility of having the ability to interfere in the infectious process of yellow fever and save lives for the first time.” We’re in the crowd!

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