DEC 12, 2022 12:35 PM PST

NIH Awards Millions of Dollars to Develop a Drug to Target the Emerging Chikungunya Virus

WRITTEN BY: Zoe Michaud

Chikungunya virus is a mosquito-borne illness, meaning it is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can cause symptoms of headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and rash. Joint pain caused by chikungunya virus can be debilitating and can last for months or years. This is called chronic chikungunya arthritis and affects about 30 to 40% of those infected with chikungunya virus. 

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent infection of chikungunya virus. There is also currently no medicine available to treat the infection. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU) were recently awarded a grant to develop a Novel 2-Pyrimidone (SRI-42718) as an inhibitor of chikungunya virus infection and disease.

The award was granted as part of an initiative by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop antiviral therapies to treat diseases caused by viruses with pandemic potential. In total, the NIH awarded more than $12 million to three research institutions and plans to award up to $60 million over the course of five years. 

Daniel Streblow, Ph.D, a professor at OSHU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, says that “we have the potential to develop an antiviral that could be used to treat millions of people during large Chikungunya outbreaks and prevent long-term disease in people who are persistently affected by this debilitating disease.”

The experimental chikungunya antiviral compound is designed to reduce the total viral load. It works by binding to the viral RNA polymerase that viruses use for replication. It targets a unique site on viral RNA polymerase that hasn’t been previously used to treat humans.

Once the researchers have completed developing the drug, they will need to submit an Investigational New Drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which will leave to a Phase 1 clinical trial if approved. 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Zoe (she/her) is a science writer and a scientist working in genomics. She received her B.S. from the University of Connecticut with a focus in Evolutionary Biology. At Labroots, she focuses on writing scientific content related to clinical research and diagnostics.
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