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Shark Compound Proves Potential as Drug to Treat Human Viruses

Posted Sep 19 2011 5:18pm

A compound initially isolated from sharks shows potential as a unique broad-spectrum human antiviral agent, according to a study led by a Georgetown University Medical Center investigator and reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition online September 19.

The compound, squalamine, has been in human clinical trials for the treatment of cancer and several eye disorders, and so has a well-known safety profile, suggesting it can be quickly tested as a new class of drugs to treat infections caused by viruses ranging from dengue and yellow fever to hepatitis B, C, and D. In both lab and animal experiments, the compound effectively demonstrated antiviral activity against these human pathogens, some of which cannot now be effectively treated.

“To realize that squalamine potentially has broad antiviral properties is immensely exciting, especially since we already know so much from ongoing studies about its behavior in people,” says the study’s lead investigator, Michael Zasloff, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery and pediatrics Georgetown University Medical Center and scientific director of the Georgetown Transplant Institute.

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