A set of experimental drugs fight off influenza in mice as well as a currently available anti-flu drug does. The drug candidates might even work against drug-resistant flu strains, researchers report online February 21 in Science.
Chemist Stephen Withers of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and colleagues designed the drug candidates — members of a class of compounds called 2,3-difluorosialic acids, or DFSAs — to prevent flu virus particles that have entered a cell from moving on to infect other cells. The flu normally relies on an enzyme called neuraminidase to break free from a conquered cell and spread, but the enzyme needs to bind to certain acids in a cell to do this. DFSAs interfere with that binding process, impeding viral spread.
When tested in mice exposed to flu, one of the DFSA derivatives protected the mice as well as the commonly prescribed flu drug zanamivir (Relenza). Mice treated with either compound survived longer than did mice who received a saline nasal spray. In tests with cells infected with flu, DFSAs even bogged down viral strains that are resistant to zanamivir and another flu drug, oseltamivir (Tamiflu).