In the first part of this overview, we described the life cycle of the influenza virus and the pharmacological action of the currently available drugs. This second part provides an overview of the molecular mechanisms and targets of still-experimental drugs for the treatment and management of influenza.
Briefly, we can distinguish between compounds with anti-influenza activity that target influenza virus proteins or genes, and molecules that target host components that are essential for viral replication and propagation. These latter compounds have been developed quite recently. Among the first group, we will focus especially on hemagglutinin, M2 channel and neuraminidase inhibitors. The second group of compounds may pave the way for personalized treatment and influenza management. Combination therapies are also discussed.
In recent decades, few antiviral molecules against influenza virus infections have been available; this has conditioned their use during human and animal outbreaks. Indeed, during seasonal and pandemic outbreaks, antiviral drugs have usually been administered in monotherapy and, sometimes, in an uncontrolled manner to farm animals. This has led to the emergence of viral strains displaying resistance, especially to compounds of the amantadane family. For this reason, it is particularly important to develop new antiviral drugs against influenza viruses. Indeed, although vaccination is the most powerful means of mitigating the effects of influenza epidemics, antiviral drugs can be very useful, particularly in delaying the spread of new pandemic viruses, thereby enabling manufacturers to prepare large quantities of pandemic vaccine. In addition, antiviral drugs are particularly valuable in complicated cases of influenza, especially in hospitalized patients.
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