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New therapy is aimed at smallpox

Feb. 1, 2005 at 9:33 PM

BOSTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Viral infections, such as smallpox, may be halted by aiming a drug not at the virus, but at the cellular machinery it needs to spread, a U.S study found.

"This is noteworthy research," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "It shows that it is possible to block temporarily a cell signaling pathway and thereby inhibit activity of a virus."

By attacking the virus by what it needs to spread from cell to cell turns the usual approach to fighting viral infections -- antiviral drugs target the virus itself -- on its head, according to Dr. Ellis Reinherz of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"Our approach short-circuits a cellular chemical pathway, making it unavailable to the virus and thus hindering the virus' ability to spread from cell to cell," says Reinherz in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.