New hope for Ross River, dengue fever sufferers

Scientists at the University of Canberra (UC) have identified a new drug which could be used to reduce the pain and swelling associated with the Ross River virus, dengue fever and influenza.

Professor Suresh Mahalingam last year helped uncover the proteins which cause serious viral inflammation.

The researchers and a pharmaceutical company have now identified an existing drug which targets those specific proteins and appears to reduce the severity of some inflammatory conditions.

He says tests have been conducted on mice with positive results.

"We've utilised that drug in our model and shown that the drug actually protects the animals from developing arthritic inflammation, tissue damage and therefore the mice do not actually succumb to the disease that badly," he said.

Professor Mahalingam says it is a major breakthrough with global implications.

"Viral inflammation can cause pain and tissue damage. Until now these painful symptoms were treated using broad spectrum anti-inflammatory drugs," he said.

"The problem with these existing drugs is they may attack the good proteins that could otherwise help fight off the virus.

"By first identifying the specific proteins and then finding a drug that targets them, we can reduce pain, inflammation and tissue damage and leave the body to what it does best - fight off the virus."

Professor Mahalingam hopes the drug will be available to the public within three years.

"To identify the proteins that cause the problem was a major step forward. But to find a drug that already targets them and to prove it works, means people around the world will be able to benefit from our research far sooner than if we had to develop a brand new drug."

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