by Sasha Nimmo

The US inventor of a potential drug treatment for all viral diseases is now crowd-funding research so it can be tested against major families of clinical viruses

Dr Todd Rider from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA) invented novel broad-spectrum antiviral drugs that may treat and prevent virtually all viral diseases. The work began 15 years ago and now needs help to fund tests against major families of clinical viruses in human cells, which hopefully will ultimately lead to human trials.

Dr Rider invented DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers) which are novel broad-spectrum antiviral drugs. So far, DRACOs have proved effective against Rhinovirus (the common cold), Dengue virus, H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu) and more in the lab. The results were published in the Journal of PLOS ONE.

This new drug treatment would potentially impact the number of patients who develop Myalgic encephalomyelitis as Enteroviruses, the Epstein Barr virus, Human herpes virus Cytomegalovirus30 and ParvovirusB19 are implicated in ME, according to the ME International Consensus Primer.

This is how it works: DRACOS is designed to kill virus-infected cells while not harming uninfected cells. Simply put, most viruses have long double- or single-stranded RNA but healthy human and animal cells do not. Or you can watch Dr Rider explain it. It is worth watching.

At the moment, there are only a few antiviral drugs and they are generally directed at a single disease. Viruses tend to become resistant to single drugs that target specific viral components because they can rapidly mutate. Unlike other antiviral drugs, DRACO detects a process—the production of double-stranded RNA—that almost all viruses use. Dr. Rider’s team has shown that a wide range of viruses produce double-stranded RNA and can be successfully treated with DRACO. Because DRACO combines double-stranded RNA detection with a method that causes the infected cell to self-destruct, viruses will have little opportunity to develop resistance to it.

Dr Rider and his team are fundraising to test DRACOs against clinically relevant viruses in human cells and hope to raise US$2 million over four years. The introduction of antibiotics in the mid-20th century has been one of the largest breakthroughs in the history of medicine. This could be the next one.

Read more about the work and the campaign.