Researchers from Griffith University and Melbourne-based company Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals Limited (ASX: PAR) found a breakthrough in the treatment of mosquito-borne alphavirus infections, such as the Ross River Virus (RRV) and Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV). They found that the drug pentosan polysulfate sodium (PPS) treats both acute and chronic symptoms of the alphavirus infections.

Current treatments for Ross River Virus and Chikungunya Virus only involve the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids, which can actually worsen the condition in some cases. Moreover, this approach does not treat the disease itself. It only provides temporary symptomatic relief and can even cause harmful complications.

For their study, the research team administered the drug to patients. Previously, these patients had difficulty in performing their daily activities but after receiving the drug, they experienced significant improvements in their physical movements and wellbeing.

According to lead researcher Lara Herrero, alphavirus infection is manifested through musculoskeletal pain, inflammation and joint swelling, which usually leads to cartilage deterioration. However, they found that PPS reduced musculoskeletal damage as well as protected the cartilage. The drug was also tolerated well.

Patient Jon Chaseling from Queensland says: “I suffered the effects of Ross River Fever for years. Most days I found it nearly impossible to do something as simple as walking down a flight of stairs. I avoided shaking hands with people because of the pain it caused. Even the weight of the bedclothes at night was agonising. Since undergoing a course of treatment with PPS, I find I’m far more mobile and in much less pain. It’s literally changed my life.”

Paul Rennie, CEO of Paradigm Biopharmaceuticals, adds that they are not done yet. They are encouraged by the remarkable responses in their initial experiment but are now planning to move to Phase 2 clinical trial so they could confirm the drug’s efficacy.