Researchers at UCLA have discovered an uncommon use for a very common drug. The drug is called fluoxetine, but is more commonly known as Prozac. Prozac has long been used as an antidepressant and falls into the class of antidepressants called SSRI. The research found that fluoxetine also has the potential to be an effective antiviral.
The type of viruses that fluoxetine was found to inhibit are under the umbrella called enteroviruses. These viruses are particularly dangerous to humans and include the deadly poliomyelitis and encephalitis. Immunizations have all but wiped out poliomyelitis, however there are many other viruses under this genus and currently there are no drugs to treat enterovirus infections. The researchers at UCLA used molecular screening to determine that fluoxetine was a potent inhibitor of coxsackievirus replication. This is a type of virus that is found in the intestinal tract. Polio and echovirus both fall under this type of virus.
According to a UCLA press release, Robert Damoiseaux, scientific director of the Molecular Screening Shared Resource at the California NanoSystems Institute was quoted as saying, “The discovery of unexpected antiviral activity of fluoxetine is scientifically very significant and draws our attention to previously overlooked potential targets of fluoxetine and other psychogenic drugs…Part of our follow-up work will be the discovery of these unconventional targets for fluoxetine and other drugs of the same class and how these targets intersect with the known targets of this drug class.”
The study was published in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.