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Researchers have found that a new drug that suppresses the immune system could be used to fight chronic viral infection.
Immunosuppressants are typically used to treat autoimmune disorders or transplant rejection, and have the common side effect of causing susceptibility to infection – making them unlikely candidates for actually treating infections.
However, a new drug, FTY720 (fingolomod), works in an unusual way by trapping the immune system’s white blood cells in the lymph nodes.
Scientists in the US found that low doses of the drug actually boosted antiviral immune responses in mice, helping the animals fight off a virus that causes a mouse form of meningitis.
FTY720 has already been tested as a treatment for multiple sclerosis and preventing kidney transplant rejection, but doctors now believe it may also be effective against chronic viral infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Reporting their findings in the journal Science, lead researcher Dr John Altman from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, wrote: “Because FTY720 targets host pathways that are completely evolutionarily conserved, our results may be translatable into new immunotherapies for the treatment of chronic infections.”
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