Given the time required to develop vaccines, therapies against the Zika virus are urgently needed.
In a recent paper, US researchers screened 6,000 existing drugs and drug candidates for potential anti-Zika properties using an enzyme activity assay and a cell viability assay.
They found that one compound, emricasan (in development for use in chronic hepatitis C infection), prevents Zika-related neural cell death and a second compound, PHA-690509, can inhibit viral replication within neural cells.
They also discovered that niclosamide – an anthelmintic drug that has been used for nearly 50 years and is thought to be safe for use during pregnancy – can prevent Zika replication.
The findings should have a significant impact on the development of Zika therapeutics, but animal studies will be critical to confirming efficacy and toxicity, the researchers conclude in Nature Medicine (online, 29 August 2016)
 Xu M, Lee EM, Wen Z et al. Identification of small molecule inhibitors of Zika virus infection and induced neural cell death via a drug repurposing screen. Nature Medicine 2016. doi: 10.1038/nm.4184