amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Experimental Flu Treatment an Outgrowth of HIV Research

In the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory, a new drug has emerged that could revolutionize flu treatment. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the experimental compound, made by the Japanese drug company Shionogi & Co., kills the influenza virus in about 24 hours and requires just a single dose. This is a substantial improvement over other treatments, which typically take three times longer to provide relief.


Having been centrally involved in the development of the antiretroviral drug dolutegravir, the Shionogi researchers realized that flu and HIV, though very different viruses, both require certain types of proteins, or enzymes, that work within the nucleus of an infected cell. The researchers stated that it was their familiarity with drugs used to block those enzymes related to HIV that enabled them to develop the new flu treatment. While the flu drug may be available in Japan within a matter of months, it is not expected to be approved for use in the U.S. until next year.

The Shionogi flu compound is the latest example of how HIV research has contributed directly to the development of treatments for a wide range of diseases. The HIV drugs lamivudine, tenofovir, and entecavir, for example, are now being used to treat hepatitis B; and sofosbuvir, the first approved direct acting antiviral drug to cure hepatitis C, was modeled on an HIV drug class called reverse transcriptase inhibitors. An HIV drug class that blocks a protein known as CCR5, the key co-receptor for HIV’s entry into cells, is being evaluated in inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune disorders.

The field of AIDS research has given rise to lifesaving advances in the treatment and prevention of numerous diseases that affect millions of Americans.It’s also increasingly clear that HIV and cancer research have a great deal in common. Blocking growth factor hormones, for example, which promote the activity of HIV and also accelerate the spread of cancer cells, has been successful in treating colon cancer and is being tested in other cancers. The protease inhibitor lopinavir that treats HIV has been shown to attack human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer. And scientists are studying if drugs designed to block a receptor that allows HIV to enter immune cells can be used to fight lung cancer, which also involves the same receptor.

“This new flu drug is just the latest example of how HIV research investments continue to pay off in often unexpected ways,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston, amfAR vice president and director of research. “As lawmakers consider future funding for biomedical research, they should remember that the field of AIDS research has given rise to lifesaving advances in the treatment and prevention of numerous diseases that affect millions of Americans.”