By Jill Drachenberg, Managing Editor, AHC Media

A group of researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Florida State University, and the National Institutes of Health discovered potential Zika treatments in existing drugs – but may not be approved for pregnant women anytime soon.

The study authors performed a “repurposing screen” of 6,000 existing drugs used for other conditions and already are available. Tapeworm treatment niclosamide can prevent the virus from replicating and spreading, and a drug being tested in clinical trials for liver disease prevented brain cells from dying after Zika exposure – an important implication when it comes to preventing microcephaly in fetuses.

However, the drugs were tested in stem cells and “brain organoids,” and have not been tested on humans as Zika treatment. Zika complication risk lies most heavily on pregnant women, yet they often are excluded from clinical trials due to risks of fetal injury. But niclosamide, according to researchers, did not harm pregnant animals in studies. 

The research team will soon begin animal studies of the potential treatments. They also will perform repurposing screenings of 80,000 more compounds.

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