In the March issue of Nature Medicine, Albert Osterhaus and colleagues report that a commercially available drug protects primate lungs from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The authors identified a lung cell called a type 1 pneumocyte as the target of the SARS coronavirus. They found that treating macaques with pegylated interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha)--a registered drug used to treat hepatitis C--before exposing them to SARS decreased the monkeys' viral load and reduced the severity of the lung damage caused by the virus. Prophylactic treatment with IFN-alpha also decreased the amount of virus shed from the macaques' throats, which might curb human transmission of the disease. The drug showed similar protective effects, though not as pronounced, when given to monkeys after they had already been exposed to SARS.
The authors suggest that the IFN-alpha drug be tested in clinical trials to protect health-care workers and others exposed to the SARS virus.
Albert D.M.E. Osterhaus
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Tel: +31 10 4088066
Also available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza