Australian researchers find protein block to kill HIV, Ebola

08 August 2011

MELBOURNE : A world first medical breakthrough developed in Australia could pave the way to cures for deadly illnesses such as HIV and Ebola. Researchers at the University of Newcastle and the Children's Medical Research Institute in Sydney have created a compound that blocks viruses from entering the body and spreading, the Herald Sun reported.

Working in conjunction with colleagues in Germany, the researchers have successfully tested the compound's effectiveness against HIV and hepatitis C. Professor Adam McCluskey said 70 per cent of viruses used a protein called clathrin as a way of entering cells and infectiong a body. By inhibiting clathrin's functions, those viruses had no way of taking hold, he said. "A person diagnosed with an infectious illness could take a drug blocking clathrin and stop the illness from spreading," he said. "The infected cell would then die."

Tests at a cellular level and on a species of fish known as a lamprey have proved successful. McCluskey said the next step would be to refine the compound and test it on more complex animals before finally developing it for human use. It's a process that can take up to 15 years but McCluskey said treatments for fatal illnesses were often fast-tracked because death was the only other option for patients. The team's research will be published today in Cell, one of the world's most prestigious science journals.

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