Prozac (fluoxetine) is a commonly-prescribed medication for the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and some personality disorders. However, a new study by UCLA researchers has found that it is effective against human enteroviruses, which cause illness and death in the United States and around the globe. The study was published on July 2 in the Journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
The researchers note that human enteroviruses are members of a genus containing more than 100 distinct RNA viruses responsible for various life-threatening infections, including poliomyelitis (polio) and encephalitis (brain infection). Immunization has all but eliminated the poliovirus; however, no antiviral drugs currently exist for the treatment of many enterovirus infections, which are often severe and potentially fatal. Because of the favorable pharmacokinetics (pharmacological activity) and safety profile of Prozac, the researchers noted that it warrants additional study as a potential antiviral agent for enterovirus infections.
The research team consisted of investigators the UCLA Department of Pediatrics, the California NanoSystems Institute, and the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. With the use of molecular screening, they found that Prozac was a potent inhibitor of coxsackievirus replication. This virus is found in the gastrointestinal tract; exposure to it causes a variety of infections and diseases.
“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,” noted Robert Damoiseaux, scientific director of the Molecular Screening Shared Resource at the California NanoSystems Institute. He added, “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.” Paul Krogstad, professor of pediatrics and molecular and medical pharmacology, added that understanding the mechanisms of action of fluoxetine and norfloxetine against coxsackieviruses “will add to our understanding of enterovirus replication and lead to assessment of their potential clinical utility for the future treatment of serious enterovirus infections.”
The researchers discovered that fluoxetine did not interfere with either viral entry or translation of the viral genome. Instead, fluoxetine and norfluoxetine markedly reduced the production of viral RNA and protein.
The California NanoSystems Institute is an integrated research facility located at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Its mission is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations in nanoscience and nanotechnology; to train a new generation of scientists, educators and technology leaders; to generate partnerships with industry; and to contribute to the economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world. The CNSI was established in 2000 with $100 million from the state of California. The total amount of research funding in nanoscience and nanotechnology awarded to CNSI members has risen to over $900 million. UCLA CNSI members are drawn from UCLA’s College of Letters and Science, the David Geffen School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, the School of Public Health and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. They are engaged in measuring, modifying and manipulating atoms and molecules — the building blocks of our world. Their work is carried out in an integrated laboratory environment. This dynamic research setting has enhanced understanding of phenomena at the nanoscale and promises to produce important discoveries in health, energy, the environment, and information technology.