The Zika virus made international headlines earlier this year after outbreaks in South and Central America spread to other countries. Isolated cases were even reported in the Czech Republic.
The virus, typically spread by mosquitos, can result in Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults and birth defects including microcephaly in unborn children.
Today, it was announced that Czech scientists had discovered a group of substances that actively combat tick-borne encephalitis as well as the related Zika virus.
The team of scientists from the České Budějovice Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Brno Veterinary Research Institute are the first in the world to make the discovery, reports Česká televize.
“The substances block the multiplication of the virus within the host’s cells,” said Daniel Růžek, head of the team. “These are referred to as nucleoside analagues which are substances similar to those where have been worked on by the late Antonín Holý.”
Despite the breakthrough discovery, the substance still has a long road to clinical testing.
“The journey to the actual drug is still a long one,” Růžek added. “At this stage, we know what type of substances impact the virus and where its Achilles’ heel is so that we can target it. This is absolutely necessary and based on these findings, we can take further steps.”
Those next steps include animal testing, according to Hospodářské noviny.
While the substance had been developed a year ago to combat tick-borne encephalitis, researchers recently tested it against Zika given the similarities between the viruses.
“It’s a long-term issue, but these substances represent a starting point for drug development,” said virologist Luďka Eyer.