Macromolecule rp_dgd 600x274We’ve had antibacterial soaps since 1984, according to VisionLaunch, and since then their use has been so common that some experts warn against its overuse. It could lead to new strains of bacteria that are resistant to the soaps. As with antibiotics, too much of a good thing can have unintended harmful results. However, either antibacterial soaps nor antibiotics work against viruses. Viruses have been increasingly in the news in the past year. Zika, Ebola, and deadly viruses that we’ve known about longer, like dengue fever, have the potential to infect many people, and the risk is not limited to remote areas of undeveloped countries. Anti-viral products could also help contain or cure other viruses such as herpes simplex that may not be lethal, but certainly are bothersome.

Help may be on the way to halt or minimize the spread of viruses between people. Curing people already infected or controlling virus infections so they won’t get worse is also in the virtual gun sights of researchers. IBM Research and Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) are working with macromolecules to attack viral diseases. The first focus will be on preventing the spread of viruses from person to person. IBM and IBN scientists are focusing first on wipes, soaps, and sprays that could be used to stop viruses from spreading.

Next up will be controlling and shutting down existing cases of viral infection. Viruses resist drugs with several mechanisms. The IBM and IBN researchers are using the potential of macromolecules to overcome virus drug resistance in three ways. One way is to shut off the cells from infecting others by coating them. Another factor feeds adjacent immune cells so they will be stronger. Since viruses thrive in acidic conditions and require acidity it to replicate, the third feature in the macromolecular arsenal is to change the pH of the virus so it cannot multiply.

There’s no announced time frame for delivery of the results from the IBM and IBN research, but the promise of finally being able to control and stop the spread of viruses, at least to the degree to which we can now do both with bacteria, is an exciting potential. Eventually vaccines against viral diseases and drugs that can cure virus infections will be the holy grail in fighting viruses, but for now, preventing them from getting worse and from spreading among populations is a tremendous prospect.