Junin Virus: Bioterror-Like Infection On The Rise, Can Scientists Stop It?
The medical world was on heightened alert after the serious life-threatening Junin virus spread in Argentina. But a team of researchers from various universities and pharmaceutical firms have claimed they have discovered a drug that could put an end to the virus, which was considered a “threat to national security” by the U.S. government.Advertisement
Although the drug is still in its experimental phase, prior trials have so far produced promising results in fighting the dreaded Argentine hemorrhagic fever when it was administered to guinea pigs. The Argentine hemorrhagic fever is caused by the Junin virus spread by rodents. Although the virus has been isolated in a certain region in Argentina, the threat it poses cannot be ignored.
In fact, the Junin virus has been classified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a “high-priority agent.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Biodefense consider it a Category A Pathogen, the Infection Control Today reported.
Under the Category A Pathogen are pathogens or biological agents that pose the highest threat to national security as well as to public health. That is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted the drug ZMapp the research team has been developing a “fast-track” status.
The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was a result of a concerted effort from various disciplines. One of the leading universities that oversee the development of the anti-Junin drug is the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, headed by professor Thomas Geisbert.
“What makes the study unique is that we observed complete protection against death even when treatment was delayed six days after Junin virus infection when animals were showing signs of disease. This recent success of the antibody therapy against Junin virus is a key step in its development as a therapeutic for use in people,” Geisbert was quoted as saying by Infection Control Today.