The drug Prozac has been found to have anti-viral properties against viruses like polio and related infectious agents. The findings could lead to a new class of antiviral medicines.
Researchers based at University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers have found that the chemical substance fluoxetine (more commonly known as the anti-depressant Prozac) is a potential antiviral agent.
The drug has been shown to be most effective against a types of viruses called human enteroviruses. The most well known of these is the polio virus, which causes poliomyelitis (which can, in a small number of cases, severely damage the central nervous system). Other viruses in the group cause aseptic meningitis in children. Enteroviruses are typically spread by the fecal-oral route (often from contaminated water).
Fluoxetine is an commonly prescribed antidepressant. It belongs to a class of drugs which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. It goes under the trade names of Prozac, Sarafem, and Fontex.
According to the research brief, the researcher have found that fluoxetine was a potent inhibitor of viral replication. The finding came from the molecular screening of small molecule libraries.
California NanoSystems Institute scientific director, Robert Damoiseaux is quoted by Softpedia as saying "The discovery of unexpected antiviral activity of fluoxetine is scientifically very significant and draws our attention to previously overlooked potential targets of fluoxetine and other psychogenic drugs".
The discovery could provide another tool in treating human enteroviruses that sicken and kill hundred of thousands of people worldwide.
The UCLA research team was made up of scientists from the Department of Pediatrics, the California NanoSystems Institute and the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. The team was led by Paul Krogstad.
The study was published in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
Separate research, conducted by the Texas A&M University, suggests that a different ant-depressant, Zoloft (sertraline hydrocholoride), has the potential to be an effective anti-fungal agent.