Research from SMU may have found a way to prevent the spread of HTLV-1, a cousin of HIV that infects 10-15 million people. The virus causes cells to divide uncontrollably, which can lead to leukemia, neurological disease, and an inflammatory disease of the nervous system whose symptoms include affecting one’s ability to walk, coma, and even death.
The drug is called Oleandrin and is derived from the Nerium oleander plant. It targets a stage in the reproduction process of the virus that has yet to be attempted by other treatment. There is no known treatment for the virus, which attacks white blood cells and is spread in a similar manner to HIV, through bodily fluid and breastmilk.
“Our research findings suggest that oleandrin could possibly limit the transmission and spread of HTLV-1 by targeting a unique stage in the retroviral life cycle,” said Robert Harrod, associate professor and director of Graduate Studies in SMU’s Department of Biological Sciences and author of the study via release.
Harrod wrote the study with Tetiana Bowley and Lacin Yapindi, Ph.D graduate students at SMU. It was published in the Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals.