Research Highlight

New potential therapy for deadly Nipah virus

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.165 Published online 15 December 2019

The burial site of a Nipah virus victim in  June 2018.

© K. S. Praveenkumar

The Nipah virus, which is transmitted to humans from bats and pigs, accounts for a high mortality rate. There are no licenced drugs to treat this virus-related infection1.

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune, India, have now identified potential inhibitor molecules that could bind to specific proteins of the Nipah virus and eventually inhibit its growth.

Since some of the inhibitor molecules are known drugs, they could be readily tested for developing therapy for this deadly virus.

In recent outbreaks, the Nipah virus has killed more than 80 per cent of the infected people in India and Bangladesh. In search of a potential therapy, the scientists first made three-dimensional computer models of the nine Nipah virus proteins. They then used these models to design inhibitory molecules to block the viral proteins’ activity.

Next, the team assessed how effective the inhibitors would be against 15 different strains of the virus from India, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

After screening more than 20,000 small drug-like and drug molecules, they narrowed their search to 13 inhibitors that were the most promising, based on their binding strength, stability and effectiveness against multiple strains of the Nipah virus.

The researchers say that few of the inhibitors could be readily tested and repurposed since they are routinely used for treating allergy, skin infections, depression and Parkinson’s disease.

The inhibitors would be potent against all strains of the Nipah virus and other related viruses that jump from animals to humans posing a serious threat of an epidemic, they add.


1. Sen, N. et al. Predicting and designing therapeutics against the Nipah virus. PLOS. Negl. Trop. Dis. (2019) doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0007419