New Approaches for Hindering Viruses
Chapter 5: Research Advances (Sidebar)


by From the Dana Sourcebook of Immunology

January, 2006

While some researchers are exploring ways to develop a better vaccine to combat a potential bioterrorist attack of smallpox, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers in Boston are pioneering a possible way to stop the infection if it were to appear. 

Ellis Reinherz, M.D., published a study in February 2005 demonstrating that a particular type of drug can disable the virus from propelling itself from one cell to another and can block a signal that the smallpox virus needs to reproduce once it is within cells. The investigators showed that the drug, aided by use of an immune antibody, works in animals that are infected by a virus related to smallpox.

At this stage of development the experimental treatment has a side effect that is damaging to genes. Researchers must overcome this problem before the treatment could be used in humans infected with smallpox and before it could be tested for use with other viral illnesses.

Because this treatment does not kill viruses, it would not help with chronic viral infections that can persist and cause harm at low levels, such as HIV. For treating acute viral infections that the immune system can handle quickly, however, Reinherz’s findings hold promise.