London: In what might be the greatest medical discovery since penicillin, scientists have developed a broad-spectrum drug which they claim can cure everything from the common cold to HIV to almost any other virus one can think of.
A team of researchers at the the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US created the drug, known by the acronym DRACO, which homes in on infected cells and makes them self-destruct.
Its hit list includes human rhinoviruses -- the bugs that cause half of colds in adults and almost all colds in children -- flu, polio, a stomach bug and deadly dengue fever, the
But DRACO, they said, is also expected to zap measles and German measles, cold sores, rabies and even HIV -- and could be on pharmacy shelves in a decade, the Daily Mail reported.
Lead researcher Mike Rider said: "It`s certainly possible that there`s some virus that we aren`t able to treat but we haven`t found it yet.
"The discovery of antibiotics revolutionised the treatment of bacterial infections and we hope that this will revolutionise the treatment of viral infections. There aren`t
very many anti-viral drugs out there at the moment."
In lab tests, DRACO killed 15 viruses, including germs behind the common cold and two types of flu. It also saved the lives of mice given a dose of flu that should have killed
Amazingly, it`s found to be working so quickly that if taken early enough it should stop any symptoms from appearing.
Tests showed that it also wards off viruses, meaning it could stop people from becoming ill in the first place, the researchers reported in the journal PLoS ONE.
SKP In their research, Dr Rider and colleagues have exploited human cells` natural defences against infection.
When viruses infect the body, they hijack cells` internal machinery to make copy after copy of themselves. During this procedure they create long double-stranded strings of the
genetic material RNA.
Human cells usually defend themselves by making proteins that latch on to the RNA and stop the virus from breeding. But many viruses can outsmart this defence system.
Thus, Dr Rider`s team harnessed a second natural process called apoptosis, in which diseased cells commit suicide.
Their drug homes in on cells with double-stranded RNA, stops the infection in its tracks and then kills the cells to finish off the infection.
What is more, healthy cells are untouched, the scientists said.
British experts welcomed the breakthrough but warned that the drug works in such an unusual way that it would have to go through years of testing before it is considered safe enough to test on people for the first time.