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Squalamine, the virus killer found in sharks, soon to treat humans

Published on 20/09/2011

A new compound found in sharks could soon be trialed as a treatment for viruses in humans.

A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online, revealed that the compound, called squalamine, can disrupt a virus’s life cycle and prevent it from replicating in tissue cultures and life animals.

Diseases like dengue, yellow fever and hepatitis B, C and D could be treated with the cholesterol-like compound found in dogfish sharks’ tissue.

In the study, squalamine stopped infection of the dengue fever virus in human blood vessel cells, and of hepatitis B and D in human liver cells.

There are plenty of drugs that treat bacterial infections, but few medications which are effective against viruses.

Study leader Michael Zasloff, director of surgical immunology at Georgetown University Hospital's Transplant Institute, discovered squalamine in 1993. He found that the molecule inhibits the growth of blood vessels.

Human research eventually led to Zasloff's "eureka moment," when he realized squalamine can also disable viruses. Shark tissue is no longer required to produce squalamine, which has been synthesized in the laboratory since 1995.

Squalamine is already in human clinical trials for cancer and eye disorders, and Zasloff predicts clinical trials for the antiviral treatment will begin in people in about a year.

Private medical insurance holders often have access to cutting edge drugs and treatments not available on the NHS. Compare health insurance policies online with ActiveQuote now to make sure you are covered in the future.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2011

Categories:  Medical
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