Originally Posted: December 6, 2019
A study led by SMU suggests that oleandrin — a drug derived from the Nerium oleander plant — could prevent the HTLV-1 virus from spreading by targeting a stage of the reproduction process that is not currently targeted by existing drugs.
That is significant because there is currently no cure or treatment for the virus, which is related to HIV. About 38 million people have HIV worldwide while about 20 million people have the HTLV-1 virus.
“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. Harrod is a co-author of the study, published in the Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals, according to press release sent by SMU.
The human T-cell leukemia virus type-1, or HTLV-1, is a retrovirus that infects T-cells and is usually transmitted in a similar manner to HIV-1 through a person’s blood or body fluid. Infected cells present within breast milk can also pass HTLV-1 from mother to infant through breastfeeding.
While HIV-1 kills the infected T-cells, HTLV-1 causes them to divide uncontrollably. This in turn can lead to the development of aggressive leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. People infected with HTLV-1 can also develop a progressive neurological disease that can affect one’s ability to walk and may cause serious symptoms leading to coma and even death.
Retrovirus particles copy themselves within infected cells by transcribing their RNA into DNA after entering a cell, a process called the retroviral life cycle. The more virus-infected cells that are produced, the worse symptoms can get for people who are infected with HTLV-1. READ MORE