Creating a drug-like molecule to activate innate immunity can induce genes to control infection in several known viruses, researchers from the University of Washington reported. 

The findings, which are published in the Journal of Virology, indicate favorable evidence in creating a broad-spectrum antiviral that can suppress a range of RNA viruses that include West Nile, dengue, hepatitis C, influenza A, respiratory syncytial, Nipah, Lassa, and Ebola. There are currently no broad-spectrum antivirals and just a few curative treatments for RNA viral infections. 

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In their study, a small molecule was able to turn on innate immunity through the RIG-I molecule, a pathogen recognition receptor that is present in all our cells. The receptors detect viral RNA and signal an innate immune response in the cell that is needed for controlling viral infections. The signaling then activates the expression of various innate immune and antiviral genes and the production of antiviral gene products, proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and interferons. 

Tests to signal induction have been successful in cells and in mice. Researchers hope to test dosing and stability in animal models and then in humans. By triggering innate immunity, the likelihood of drug resistance decreases because the treatment is targeted to the cell via different genes and not to the virus itself. 

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