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Repurposing Licensed Drugs for Use Against the Zika Virus

MAR 03, 2017 | SARAH ANWAR
In his interview with Contagion®, Dr. Malone discussed the various combinations and compounds his team identified to be used against Zika.

According to Dr. Malone, testing a drug’s efficacy in a cohort of pregnant women would not only be time-consuming, but also expensive and would require a large number of participants. One reason that testing drugs and vaccine efficacy for use in pregnant women is so time-consuming is that researchers need to test the drug during pregnancy, and then follow the infants after birth to see if any complications arise.
Because Zika viral shedding in semen is prolonged, Dr. Malone and his team plan to enroll male participants in their clinical trials. Study power calculations indicate that this approach may reduce study enrollment requirements to prove antiviral activity from approximately 10,000 subjects in a prophylactic efficacy trial to only around 600 male participants for this type of a therapeutic clinical trial design; this may also cut the costs and length of the trials. The research team hopes to be able to administer the identified drugs to their study cohort, and measure how long the Zika virus is able to persist in semen samples thereafter.
Through this novel approach to repurposing drugs, Dr. Malone and his team propose that a “shortened pathway to potential licensure,” can be implemented by identifying already licensed drugs that could be potentially effective against the Zika virus.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that the human semen shedding trials have yet to be initiated. 
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