Queensland researchers have found a way to kill the Zika virus using compounds found in an Australian native plant.
The compounds halt the virus, which causes birth defects, and stop it replicating without damage to host mammalian cells, QUT scientists say.
“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,” lead researcher Dr Trudi Collet said.
She didn’t name the plant, presumably for commercial reasons, but said it was fairly common, and its compounds were found to kill 100 per cent of the Zika infection in cells.
“It’s 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.”
Researchers will spend the next three to five months working to synthesise the compounds, and will then to go on to test them on the other viruses.
Zika causes severe disability in babies by attacking developing stem cells in the brain – but in adults, whose brains are fully formed, it often causes no more than mild flu-like symptoms.
QUT researchers have been working in collaboration with Australian-based biotech company Health Focus Products Australia.
HFPA chairman and founder Dr Mark Baldock says Zika is becoming more prevalent and has been shown to remain in human sperm for six months.
He says the breakthrough offers promise of one day being able to eliminate the virus from people who contract it in the very early stages, thereby reducing risks around conception.