BAD NEWS FOR VIRUSES (GOOD NEWS FOR YOU)

This entry was posted by Thursday, 8 December, 2011
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GERMS

Nobody has anything good to say about plagues so it’s probably good that antibiotics came along with their ability to knock off bacteria. Viruses are a whole other deal, though. They’re so small that bacteria couldn’t see them without a microscope.

If bacteria had eyes.

Viruses drift around acting dead which, I guess, they are since they don’t eat, excrete, make babies, and wriggle around like living things (such as bacteria) do. But they’re not quite as dead as you might like. They have a very obnoxious trick. If  the right virus happens to come into contact with a  cell, it can use its shape to fool the cell into opening up its protective membrane and letting it in. Which is the mistake of a lifetime for that cell since the virus quickly winds up in charge. The cell loses its right to vote. Even worse,  the virus starts making  copies of itself, using the cell’s equipment. If this happens to your cells, you “have” a virus. This is how people wind up with HIV, for example. (Please don’t tell me they have to take their clothes off first; I happen know that.)

VIRUSES VS BACTERIA

There are many antibiotics that work against bacteria. Researchers keep trying to invent new ones. It’s a cat and mouse thing. We get a great antibiotic going and the bacteria figure a way to fool it.  It is true that there’s a  fear that we’re losing our edge over bacteria; some think that the miseries of ancient times will return but MISTER ScienceAintSoBad thinks that won’t happen.

Bacteria, however,  are old news. The new frontier is viruses; they have been a harder nut to crack. Only in the the last few years have there been any drugs at all. How do you get at the virus to kill it? After all, it’s living in your cells; you don’t want to kill THEM do you?

See the problem?

Todd Rider  (MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory) has a new approach. His drug, DRACO, goes after a type of RNA that’s only present in virus infected cells. DRACO would be a “broad spectrum” antiviral drug, meaning it would (or should) work against pretty much any virus. Which could mean the end of the common cold as well as the end of the common HIV infection and the end of herpes in all of its rotten forms and many, many other great, great things. Early results are exciting. With  luck,  licensing and human trials will follow.

How do we feel about this potentially fantastic development? ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10.

We’re wishin’ on your star, Todd Rider.

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Credits for the above image? Mister ScienceAintSoBad created that work of art. My vision of a pink germ.


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