The newest antiviral drugs could take advantage of a compound made not by humans, but inside them. A team of researchers has identified the mode of action of viperin, a naturally occurring enzyme in humans and other mammals that is known to have antiviral effects on a wide variety of viruses, including West Nile, hepatitis C, rabies, and HIV.
The enzyme facilitates a reaction that produces the molecule ddhCTP, which prevents viruses from copying their genetic material and thus from multiplying. This discovery could allow researchers to develop a drug that induces the human body to produce this molecule and could act as a broad-spectrum therapy for a range of viruses. A paper describing the study appears online on June 20th in the journal Nature.
“We knew viperin had broad antiviral effects through some sort of enzymatic activity, but other antivirals use a different method to stop viruses,” said Craig Cameron, professor and holder of the Eberly Chair in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State and an author of the study.