Ramaswamy Narayanan, PhDTaking advantage of the fact that the Zika virus is related to various other mosquito viruses such as the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, and Spondweni viruses, Ramaswamy Narayanan, PhD, a professor of biological sciences in FAU's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, has identified 55 drug targets for the Zika virus from the human genome.Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic University

The Zika virus, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, is spreading rapidly across the globe and threatens to become a global pandemic. A strong link to neurological disorders including Guillain-Barré syndrome, and microcephaly is suspected, but not yet proven. Furthermore, the sexual transmission of the Zika virus and the presence of the virus in the mother’s milk are a cause for major concern. Currently, no treatment options, diagnostic kits, or biomarkers are available for the Zika virus.

Taking advantage of the fact that the Zika virus is related to various other mosquito viruses such as the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, and Spondweni viruses, a professor at Florida Atlantic University has identified 55 drug targets for the Zika virus from the human genome. This work has led to the identification of 79 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs that are currently being used to treat blood disorders, cancer, cardiac diseases, diabetes, inflammation, infections (antivirals) and immune function disorders.

Related Article: Researchers Reveal Zika Virus Structure, a Critical Advance in the Development of Treatments

“The human genome has provided an effective approach to discover markers and drugs for various infectious diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C,” said Ramaswamy Narayanan, PhD, a professor of biological sciences in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU. “The paucity of the Zika virus-related information makes the drug discovery and biomarkers development difficult and vaccines are likely to take several years before they are approved by the FDA.” 

The World Health Organization recently declared a Global Public Health Emergency (WHO report, Feb. 5). As of March 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 273 travel-associated cases in the U.S. including 70 in Florida and 43 in New York, and 282 cases in U.S. territories (American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands).

“The availability of safety and side effects information of these drugs makes them attractive for repurposing and testing in the clinic,” said Narayanan. “A disease like the Zika virus infection, which will affect large numbers of pregnant women and newborn babies from around the globe needs to be attacked from different angles. This means using existing drugs for other indications for the Zika virus treatment while waiting for the vaccines to develop.”

Narayanan’s work is published in the international journal of MOJ Proteomics and Bioinformatics