While the WHO report on Chigunya shows that over the years there has been no specific antiviral drug treatment for chikungunya or no commercial chikungunya vaccine, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Roorkee are on a mission to develop a cure.
The researchers at the institute are conducting in-depth research on the drug piperazine, and have discovered its anti-viral properties could be used to tackle the disease. The findings have been published in the `Antiviral Research’ journal by the Elsevier group, reported the Times of India.
Speaking to the publication, Dr Shailly Tomar of the Biotechnology department at the institute expressed how the disease has become a significant public health concern, affecting many people each year.
In the absence of a vaccine or antiviral drug available in the market, the course of treatment currently revolves around alleviating symptoms associated with the viral infection.
“Developing a new antiviral drug molecule can take over a decade, and that is the reason why we are looking at repositioning existing, approved drugs and testing these to see if they might inhibit or kill pathogenic viruses,” said Dr Tomar.
Their research has shown that the spread and replication of the Chikungunya virus can be efficiently curbed in a lab setting with the existing drug piperazine. The focus is now on testing the molecule on animals so they can take it one step forward to clinical trials.
What is Chikungunya?
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease, the first outbreak of which was reported in southern Tanzania in 1952.
It is a viral infection that is transmitted between humans thanks to infected female mosquitoes like Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The onset of Chikungunya usually happens between 4 and eight days or 2 to 12 days after the bite. Symptoms include frequent fever with joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
IIT researchers have discovered that Piperazine, commonly used in deworming treatments, using X-ray crystallographic technique, computational biology and fluorescence techniques, binds itself well with the hydrophobic pocket on the alphavirus capsid protein.
“This pocket is the key to the replication of the virus and its spread inside a host. This inhibition of this pocket prevents budding and spread of the virus and can help in treating the virus effectively using existing drugs,” the researchers told the publication.