Researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee have identified two small potent molecules Pep-I and Pep-II, for their inhibitory activity to treat Chikungunya disease. The antiviral activity of these molecules was so high that their small amount was able to achieve almost 99% reduction in virus. Currently, there are no drugs to treat chikungunya or any vaccine to prevent it.
The antiviral activity was tested by adding molecules directly into virus culture. Using structure-based studies of chikungunya virus-specific nsP2 protease, researchers had identified two small molecules Pep-I and Pep-II for their inhibitory activity against vector borne disease.
Protease inhibitors have already been used successfully against HIV and hepatitis C virus. Pep-I, one of two molecules has superior antiviral activity against chikungunya virus. It was found to effectively bind to protein of virus (nsP2 protease) and prevent virus from replicating. It is hypothesised that any molecule that inhibits nsP2 protease is having antiviral activity.
During studies it was confirmed that both molecules have significant ability to kill virus. Pep-I molecule was very efficient in killing the virus, 99% reduction in virus at 5 microMolar and Pep-II molecule showed reduced antiviral activity of only 50% even at a higher concentration of about 200 microMolar. The two molecules also reduced viral RNA thus confirming the antiviral activity.
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne virus that causes a disease. It is transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Its symptoms are characterised by abrupt fever and severe joint pain, often in hands and feet, and may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling or rash.
There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for chikungunya. There is no commercial vaccine to treat chikungunya. Chikungunya treatment is directed primarily at relieving the symptoms, including the joint pain using anti-pyretics, optimal analgesics and fluids.