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FSU researchers may have discovered breakthrough in Zika virus battle

Drug could be used to combat infection

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Researchers at Florida State University may have made a major breakthrough in the battle against the Zika virus.

As state officials scramble to spray for mosquitoes and contain a potential Zika virus outbreak, a drug that could be used to combat the infection may already be at our fingertips.

Researchers at Florida State University and Johns Hopkins teamed up and discovered already existing drug compounds that have been shown to fight the virus.

"One of these drugs is in some stages of clinical trials," FSU graduate researcher Emily Lee said. "The other drug is already FDA-approved, which is pretty exciting."

One of the drugs is currently used to battle tapeworms, but the group's research has shown so far that the drugs can potentially prevent the damaging birth defects the virus has been causing.

"We can actually protect cells from dying from the Zika virus," Lee said. "The other group of compounds can actually protect people from the Zika virus by stopping the virus from being able to replicate inside of the cells."

Clinical trials on the drugs could still take another couple of years, but scientists said it's better than the alternative.

"If we weren't going for drugs that already had some clinical indications for safety, it could take a decade. It could take longer," Lee said.

It will take longer to find out if it's safe for pregnant women to take the potential Zika-fighting drugs.

Through Monday, there had been 545 travel-related Zika infections, 43 local transmissions and 75 Zika infections involving pregnant women in Florida.