While not delivering a knockout blow, the discovery of penicillin in 1928 provided a potent weapon in the fight against a wide range of bacterial infections.
The quest to develop a similarly broad-spectrum drug to fight viral infections has proven more difficult but now researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory have designed a drug that has so far proven effective against all 15 viruses it has been tested on. These include rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.
While there are a number drugs that are effective against specific viruses, such as the protease inhibitors used to control HIV infection, they are relatively rare and susceptible to viral resistance. In a development that could change the way viral infections are treated, the MIT researchers have designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected not just by a specific virus, but by any virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.