A Southwest Florida research company said it has developed a medication to combat Zika. The pill is meant to treat people who’ve already contracted the mosquito-borne virus.
Joshua Costin has worked on these kinds of viruses, like dengue fever, since 2005. He said he helped create two patented dengue medications.
Now, Costin is a researcher with Herbal Science Group in Bonita Springs. He and his team crafted an anti-Zika drug that works like this: the virus has one major viral protein. The medication binds to that protein and stops it from entering people’s cells.
“If it can’t enter cells, it can’t infect them, it can’t replicate, it can’t make new viruses. And so you stop the whole infection cycle,” said Costin.
He and his team contracted the nonprofit center Southern Research Institute to test the pill’s effectiveness in a lab, and he said it worked well.
But Costin said they need more testing to figure out how their drug will affect pregnant women. Zika is known to cause birth defects in unborn fetuses of pregnant women who get the virus. Herbal Science Group hopes to start human clinical trials of its pill around April of 2017.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has not approved any Zika medications or vaccines yet, and said it cannot talk about any other developing products right now.
Joshua Costin said the race is on in the science community to find a Zika virus solution. He said most of the focus seems to be on vaccinations, but he said they have a very different use from anti-viral medications.
"Vaccines are preventative. Once you caught it, the vaccine can't help you," he said.
And Costin said there's a complication with any potential vaccines for Zika. Lab results showed that when the virus is caught one time, you can actually become more susceptible to catching it a second time.
"So it makes it easier to spread and it makes the infection worse," he said.
Costin said he and his colleagues always knew the Zika virus would come to Florida because the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the virus lives in the state. But he said there’s another reason he’s trying to combat Zika…
“I’m from Naples. I grew up here I have a family here so I have a very vested interest in wanting to protect myself and my family from these kinds of viruses,” said Costin.