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Hold the Jokes: Viagra/Drug Combo Could Fight Deadly Infections

Mar. 6, 2015|725 views
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According to researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, combining a new investigational drug with an old male impotence treatment may be the answer to growing public health threats from deadly viruses, such as Ebola, hepatitis, and influenza; and dangerous drug-resistant superbugs, such as MRSA, MRSE, and N. gonorrhoeae. It may even become standard anti-cancer therapy.

The investigational drug, dubbed OSU 03012, targets a key group of proteins that viruses, bacteria, and even tumor cells all need to reproduce and grow. Known as chaperone proteins, these molecules enable viruses to be infective. By targeting a protein known as GRP78, the drug combo renders bacteria vulnerable to common antibiotics—which they’ve long since become immune to, otherwise. It also renders viruses impotent, so to speak, in that they cannot infect additional cells.

Likewise, the combo thwarts the growth of cancerous tumors. Ongoing research suggests the drug combo may even make certain tumors more vulnerable to standard chemotherapy. For example, in 2010, researchers showed that adding Viagra to breast cancer chemotherapy with the potent drug, doxorubicin, enhances the effectiveness of the chemo drug, while reducing damage to the heart.

"The findings open an avenue of being able to treat viral infections, infections that certainly most people would say we'll never be able to treat; they prove that GRP78 is a "drugable" target to stop viruses from reproducing and spreading," said chief investigator, Paul Dent, Ph.D. "And in the case of bacteria, we have a new antibiotic target, Dna K, that if we're careful and only use the OSU drug in hospitals, we've got something that can help to treat the superbugs.”

Although drugs such as Viagra and Cialis are marketed for the reversal of male erectile dysfunction, their class, known as the phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, has proven useful for a number of other purposes. In fact, given this promising new research, it’s entirely possible that a similar drug combination may one day be used to save ordinary people from potentially deadly infection with superbugs, or viruses, for which there was previously no effective treatment.  

Paul Dent et al. GRP78 / BiP / HSPA5 / Dna K is a universal therapeutic target for human disease†. Journal of Cellular Physiology, December 2014 DOI: 10.1002/jcp.24919  


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