Zika virus remains a major global health risk. In most adults, Zika causes mild flu-like symptoms. But in pregnant women, the virus can cause serious birth defects in babies including microcephaly a neurological condition in which newborns have unusually small heads and fail to develop properly. There is no treatment or way to reverse the condition.
A new research study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and UC San Diego School of Medicine has found that chloroquine, a medication used to prevent and treat malaria may also be effective for Zika virus. The drug has a long history of safe use during pregnancy, and is relatively inexpensive. The research was published today in Scientific Reports.
Terskikh is co-senior author of a new study that examined the effect of chloroquine in human brain organoids and pregnant mice infected with the virus, and found the drug markedly reduced the amount of Zika virus in maternal blood and neural progenitor cells in the fetal brain. Pregnant mice received chloroquine through drinking water in dosages equivalent to acceptable levels used in humans.
Citation: Shiryaev, Sergey A., Pinar Mesci, Antonella Pinto, Isabella Fernandes, Nicholas Sheets, Sujan Shresta, Chen Farhy, Chun-Teng Huang, Alex Y. Strongin, Alysson R. Muotri, and Alexey V. Terskikh. “Repurposing of the anti-malaria drug chloroquine for Zika Virus treatment and prophylaxis.” Scientific Reports 7, no. 1 (2017).
Funding: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, NARSAD Independent Investigator Grant, International Rett Syndrome Foundation.
Adapted from press release by Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.