If we vaccinated everyone who could be medically vaccinated against measles, measles would be eradicated.
Though there are other measles-like viruses, humans are the only hosts for what we commonly refer to as ‘measles’.
Use vaccines to cut humans out of the equation? Extinct virus.
Its that ‘easy’.
Unfortunately, measles ‘wants’ to exist, and they have human hosts, anti-vaxers, to help it stay alive.
Invent a shelf-stable oral drug that slows down measles infections, thats wat do:
1– They had a ‘small molecule inhibitor’ of the measles virus RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase. The virus needs to make RNA from RNA. Humans dont do that. Stop this enzyme, stop the virus.
2– They tinkered with their small molecule inhibitor to make it a better drug– available via oral dosing, easy(ish) to synthesize, low cytotoxicity (doesnt kill virus AND cells, eg bleach), etc. They called the tinkered drug ERDRP-0519.
3– ERDRP-0519, in the lab, can stop lots of different kinds of measles isolated from people. It also worked well stopping canine distemper virus, a virus related to human measles.
4– Canine distemper virus kills 100% of the ferrets it infects. 100%. If ERDRP-0519 can ‘save’ an infected ferret, odds are it would be great at stopping human measles in people (which isnt as aggressive in humans as canine distemper virus is in ferrets).
5– They gave ferrets ERDRP-0519, then infected them with canine distemper. They also did the reverse– infecting the ferrets, then giving them the drug. ALL of the ferrets given the drug first survived. 100% lethal infection became 0% lethal. The ferrets who were infected first did not survive, BUT, they did survive 28 days, while the ferrets who did not get the drug only survived 14 days.
So, pre-exposure ERDRP-0519 can protect 100% of the ferrets. In the case of humans, that would be useful for people with known immune deficiencies at risk of exposure.
The more common situation would be a human unknowingly/finding out they were in contact with an infectious individual. They would be exposed before they would think to take the medication. Virus–>drug. In this case with the animal model, 100% of the ferrets died.
Total failure then?
Not necessarily. You need to remember the CDV-ferret model is a Worst Case Scenario scenario. 100% of infected ferrets die, where this is NOT the case with humans and measles. What they found in the infected–>drug ferrets is that their viral loads were still much lower than what they found in straight infected ferrets. In humans, this would likely translate to a) less pathogenic infection and b) less likely to transmit the virus to others.
While Im sure the researchers would have loved to see their drug protect ALL of the ferrets, the data they got is still extremely promising. If this translates into humans, we might have a way to treat vaccinated-but-unprotected individuals who are infected by anti-vaxers, and we might be able to stop anti-vaxers from infecting more people.
We might be able to eradicate this bastard!
The virus CAN evolve resistance to the drug. It can. They showed it in this paper. This drug is not perfect. But this drug could give us an edge over measles and the anti-vaxers who try to keep this disease alive.