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Dogfish shark chemical stops human viruses

Researchers report that squalamine—an antibiotic isolated from dogfish sharks—is also active against a broad spectrum of human viral pathogens
Credit:   Andy Murch
Spiny Dogfish
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  |  Squalamine as a broad-spectrum systemic antiviral agent with therapeutic potential    |   12-14-2011
The spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias) is the most common shark and travels in schools. They are called dogfish because they travel and hunt in packs. They are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, from tropical equatorial climates to the Arctic and Antarctic

I was interested in sharks because of their seemingly primitive but effective immune system. No-one could explain why the shark was so hardy.

—Lead researcher Prof Michael Zasloff

Animal studies showed that squalamine controlled infections of yellow fever, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, and murine cytomegalovirus. In some cases, the animals were cured.

Squalamine appears to protect against viruses that attack the liver and blood tissues, and other similar compounds that we know exist in the shark likely protect against respiratory viral infections, and so on.

We may be able to harness the shark's novel immune system to turn all of these antiviral compounds into agents that protect humans against a wide variety of viruses. That would be revolutionary, lead researcher Prof Michael Zasloff said:

Because squalamine can be readily synthesized and has a known safety profile in man, the researchers believe its potential as a broad-spectrum human antiviral agent should be explored.

Further reading ► Squalamine