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Researchers Investigate Three Drugs That Might Fight Zika

But only one is already approved in the United States

TUESDAY, Aug. 30, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Three already existing drugs may offer pregnant women and their developing fetuses protection against the damaging effects of Zika virus, according to a new multicenter study published online Aug. 29 in Nature Medicine.

Researchers identified these three potential Zika treatments in the laboratory by screening over 6,000 different compounds that included already-approved drugs and clinical trial drug candidates.

One of the drugs, sold as niclosamide, is already on the market as a treatment for tapeworm. But it appears to also have antiviral properties that inhibit Zika from replicating, the researchers reported. Another antiviral drug potentially effective against Zika is PHA-690509. This is a medication that is currently in development that works by interfering with gene expression, the study authors said. Investigators identified a third medication awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval that doesn’t directly act against Zika but may be able to protect the brain cells of developing fetuses against viral damage. The drug, emricasan, inhibits a natural process that causes programmed cell death.

For women who are not pregnant and males, testing the compounds in clinical trials will take a minimum of one to two years, according to study coauthor Wei Zheng, Ph.D., from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. “However, for the pregnant women, the timeline will be much longer because we need additional preclinical toxicology studies to make sure the drugs are safe,” Zheng told HealthDay.

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