A researcher looks at mosquito specimen in a test tube at the RITM in Muntinlupa city (Photo : Reuters)
Doctors may have a new weapon against West Nile Virus, thanks to research by expeditionary biologist Terry Fredeking and his team of physicians. A study by Fredeking's company, Antibody Systems of Hurst, found that the antibiotic Doxycycline halved the death rate of individuals with dengue fever, an illness which behaves similarly to West Nile Virus.
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Star-Telegram reports that both dengue fever and West Nile Virus produce what is called a cytokine storm. Cytokine storms, which are prevalent in viral illnesses, result in an overproduction of cytokines, which tell the immune system how to get rid of infections.
Fredeking explains: "It's like General Motors employees putting out 100 cars a day and suddenly being told to put out 500 cars a day with the same number of people."
"You'd get cars without starters, or no drive shafts or whatever...You would have 500 cars a day, but none of them work."
Doxycycline returns the immune system to its normal state after the virus has been fought off, preventing potential organ damage. In effect, the body is able to maintain quality control of its white blood cells, preventing serious complications after the virus has been destroyed.
However, there are currently no studies that test the effect the antibiotic drug has on West Nile Virus patients.
Dr. Marc Fischer of the CDC states that doxycycline "has no antiviral activity against West Nile virus or other viruses. I am not aware of any data or ongoing studies regarding the use of doxycycline to treat West Nile virus or other viral infections."
Retired hematologist Dr. Norwood Hill, Fredeking's former co-worker, believes that "it's worth studying doxycycline in connection with West Nile. I would think physicians would be very interested in it. The low cost of medicine should make it more attractive."
"We're going to have these outbreaks in the future, because West Nile isn't going away," Hill adds.