Antiviral made from sugar ‘may be game changer for diseases like coronavirus’

A new antiviral treatment made from sugar may be a “game changer” in the treatment of diseases such as the coronavirus outbreak, scientists say.

The development shows promise for the treatment of herpes simplex, respiratory syncytial virus, hepatitis C, HIV and Zika, the study suggests.

The team from the University of Manchester, the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, said they have successfully treated a range of viruses in the lab.

In a study published in Science Advances, they say that although it at an early stage of development, the new approach could also be effective against newly prevalent viral diseases such as coronavirus.

Dr Samuel Jones, from the University of Manchester, a member of the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, jointly led the research with Dr Valeria Cagno from UNIGE.

He said: “We have successfully engineered a new molecule, which is a modified sugar that shows broad-spectrum antiviral properties.

“The antiviral mechanism is virucidal meaning that viruses struggle to develop resistance.

“As this is a new type of antiviral and one of the first to ever show broad-spectrum efficacy, it has potential to be a game changer in treating viral infections.”

Virucidal substances such as bleach are typically capable of destroying viruses on contact but are extremely toxic to humans.

Developing virucides from sugar means the creation of a new type of antiviral drug which destroys viruses without being harmful to humans.

Viruses can mutate and become resistant to antiviral drugs that work by inhibiting virus growth. This means they are not always reliable.

Using modified sugar molecules, the team showed that the outer shell of a virus can be disrupted, destroying the infectious particles on contact, as opposed to simply restricting its growth.

This new approach has also been shown to defend against drug resistance, scientists say.

Researchers engineered new modified molecules using natural glucose derivatives known as cyclodextrins.

The molecules attract viruses before breaking them down on contact, destroying the virus and fighting the infection.

Researchers say that with further testing the treatment could find a use in creams, ointments and nasal sprays or other treatments for viral infections.

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