A research group of the Department of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV) in Mexico headed by Rosa María del Ángel Núñez, are designing and testing antivirals as a strategy for infection control of diseases such as Dengue and Zika.

In recent years we have worked with vitamin D combined with statins, metformin, ivermectin and ezetimibe among others; some reduce cell cholesterol levels and because the virus uses it, this decreases viral multiplication and infection,” Del Ángel Núñez said.

She explained that other compounds such as ivermectin prevent the arrival of some viral proteins to the nucleus of the cell, a process necessary to develop the infection; vitamin D also reduces the production of proinflammatory cytokines and this also reduces viral infection.

All the molecules the researchers have analysed so far have shown positive results in cells in cultures. The researchers are testing statins combined with one or two other drugs. In the case of metformin it is tested alone in an animal model. “The preliminary results are promising but they must be concluded to have evidence of their usefulness and to be able to initiate clinical studies in humans,” said Rosa María del Ángel.

Dengue infection occurs after a mosquito infected with the virus bites a healthy person, so the vector inoculates the virus into the blood, where it infects various cells such as macrophages, dendritic and liver. Each time it enters a cell it produces thousands of new viruses that can multiply inside other cells; symptoms occur when there are many viruses in the patient’s blood.

The infection is acquired from 2 to 7 days and there are two clinical forms: mild dengue, characterized by fever of 39 to 40 degrees Celsius, severe headache, pain in joints and behind the eyes, as and casual rash.  The serious form has the same symptoms, but in addition there can be nosebleeds, bleeding gums or digestive tract and cause plasma leakage, with a sudden drop in temperature, lethargy, vomiting and can cause death due to hypovolemic shock. The main problem for controlling it is knowing who will develop mild dengue and who the serious type.

Severe dengue can cause the death of a person in 24 hours and it would be great to know who will have the serious form, so that the patient stays in the hospital,” said Del Ángel Núñez.