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Possible measles drug tests well in animals

Compound saves ferrets from related virus by blocking key enzyme

By
2:00pm, April 16, 2014

UNNECESSARY SUFFERING  Despite the availability of a potent vaccine, measles continues to cause outbreaks around the world due to its high transmissibility, spotty vaccine coverage in some poor countries and vaccine avoidance in wealthy ones. The infection has no effective treatment, so researchers are working to develop antivirals.

There’s no treatment for measles, but an experimental compound might do the trick by bogging down a key viral enzyme, a study of ferrets finds. When given to animals infected by a virus similar to the one that causes measles, the compound prevented illness.

“This is still a ways away from human testing,” says Alan Hinman, a public health physician at the Task Force for Global Health, a nonprofit organization in Decatur, Ga. “But it’s exciting to see this. I think it has potential to be really useful.”

Measles is caused by a pathogen in the genus Morbillivirus. The virus relies on an enzyme called RNA polymerase to infect and spread in a host. Because mammals don’t have the same enzyme, researchers are developing experimental compounds that target that RNA polymerase. Scientists report in the April 16 Science Translational Medicine that one such

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