Washington: In a novel discovery, scientists have identified six potential therapeutics to treat the deadly H7N9 avian influenza.
"The seriousness of the disease often results from the strength of immune response, rather than with the virus itself. Turning down that response, rather than attacking the virus, might be a better way to reduce that severity," explained Juliet Morrison from University of Washington, Seattle.
The viruses that cause severe illness like H7N9 trigger gene expression signatures that are different from the signatures seen in milder infections.
"Importantly, we can exploit these signatures for antiviral drug discovery," Morrison added.
The investigators used a computational approach to identify potentially therapeutic drugs.
They searched databases containing gene expression profiles of cultured human cells that had been treated with different drugs.
These drugs could potentially dampen the harmful host response.
"Six of these drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and could potentially be repurposed as H7N9 influenza therapeutics," Morrison said.
Computational biology represents an exciting new way to study viruses and to discover drugs to fight them, the study, published online in the Journal of Virology, concluded.
The H7N9 avian influenza which emerged in Feb 2013 causes extreme illness, reminiscent of the 1918 influenza pandemic, the deadliest on record.