It is estimated that approximately one million Americans receive medical treatment each year for shingles, a condition that can be both painful and debilitating and potentially lead to complications.
Shingles comes from the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Symptoms of shingles can include blistering skin rashes, tingling, pain on one side and burning sensations. Sufferers may still have pain even once the rash disappears.
Once a person has recovered from a bout of chickenpox the virus still lies dormant in the nervous system. When it reawakens when the immune system is low, often when patients are rundown or weak, it becomes shingles.
Scientists at the Welsh School of Pharmacy at the University of Wales in Cardiff and the Virology lab at the Rega Institute in Leuven, Belgium, believe they have found a solution to end the symptoms of shingles fast and is 10,000 times more powerful than conventional treatments.
The scientists discovered a new molecule, dubbed Cf1743, which appears to be the most powerful method of killing the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles.
The molecule was discovered “accidentally” while Professor Chris McGuigan, from the Welsh School of Pharmacy, and his team were working on finding an anti-HIV drug.
In conjunction with their sponsor, US based bio-pharmaceutical company, Inhibitex, they have developed this molecule into a drug called FV100.
The new once-a-day drug would stop the virus from growing and therefore the symptoms associated with shingles would be dramatically reduced.
They are currently in Phase 2 of clinical trials in the United States using approximately 300 patients with shingles who are being treated with either FV100 or the drug that is regularly used to treat shingles, Valacyclovix. It is hoped that the drug would be available by 2012.
Treatment today includes giving patients anti-shingle treatment as soon as symptoms appear in the hopes of warding off the painful side-effects, whereas FV100 could be given at any point during the virus with the same results.
“Despite its somewhat unusual beginnings, we have been able to take the initial discovery and develop it much further. If our trial proves successful, this new drug could significantly improve the quality of life for millions of people with shingles,” said McGuigan.