Iowa State University researchers have found a key to how a drug fights one of the most common forms of flu bug. Chemistry professor Mei Hong says the drug was introduced in the 1960’s and for a couple of decades fought the flu until it no longer was effective. She says the drug lost its potency because of the resistance developed by a mutant strain the flu virus developed.
Hong says they studied how the drug used to work against the flu to get an idea how a new drug might work. Hong says the virus begins the process by attaching itself to a healthy cell, and then uses a protein open a channel to the healthy cell. Wong says the viral protein acidifies the virus interior to lower its pH and causes it to release its genetic material into the healthy cell. She says the drug once was able to plug the channel used by the viral cell to infect the healthy cell.
Wong says they’ve identified two points where the channel happens. Hong says the next step is to examine how mutant versions of the virus are able to resist the flu-stopping changes caused by drug. Hong says that will hopefully give chemists an idea of what type of compounds they need to develop to once again plug the channels to stop the mutant virus. Hong says the next step may take awhile.
Hong says they started studying the system one or two years ago, looking at another issue. She says they found out the latest information in a relatively short eight months, and the next step will take at least one year. Hong says some 90-percent of the flu is linked to this strain, so finding a new drug to combat it would help many people.