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May 12, 2016

IBM developed a ‘magic bullet’ to combat viral infections

by John_A

IBM Research and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore have created a new chemical “macromolecule” that could aid in the fight against a wide range of viral diseases like Ebola, Zika, dengue fever, herpes or even influenza. The new chemical was “designed from the ground up” to combat viruses in three ways: by preventing it from infecting healthy cells, stopping the virus’s replication and finally boosting the body’s immune system to help it fight the virus on its own.

So far, the new chemical has been effective against Ebola, dengue and herpes simplex when tested in a lab environment. But what makes this completely new molecule a so-called “magic bullet” is its ability to fight off the viruses regardless of any mutations they naturally make over time. Zika, for example, mutates rapidly, making it particularly difficult to develop a vaccine to combat it. While, IBM and IBN began their research before the Zika outbreak reached “alarming proportions,” they hope to partner with a pharmaceutical company soon to test the chemical’s effectiveness against the virus.

For now, however, the two groups are exploring ways to put their new chemical into consumer goods like anti-viral wipes or a vaporized version that could be used in hospitals to prevent further outbreaks.

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