Health Watch - Infections: Anti-Viral Drugs

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This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about fighting infections. Viruses can be difficult to treat because they don’t respond to antibiotics. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are working to develop new drugs that will help the body fight viruses.

One new drug exploits a trait of viruses. When cells are infected by a virus, a lipid molecule that’s normally on the inside of the cell flips to the outside of the cell. The drug bavituximab then attaches itself to this lipid molecule on infected cells. Dr. Philip Thorpe, a UT Southwestern pharmacologist, says this is like raising a red flag to signal the immune system to attack the infected cells. The drug is being tested on patients with hepatitis C. It also appears to work on Lassa fever, an illness which is common in west Africa and which might be used as a bioweapon. Influenza, herpes simplex, smallpox and HIV viruses also have the flipping lipid molecule, so it’s possible the drug could be used against these viruses.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in infectious diseases.


March 2009

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