The active ingredient in the common depression drug Prozac – a chemical called fluoxetine – can apparently double as an effective anti-viral medication, researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) found in a new study.
The substance can attack and destroy human enteroviruses, a class of pathogens containing about 100 RNA viruses, which can cause conditions including poliomyelitis and encephalitis. Originally, fluoxetine was developed to act as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
“The discovery of unexpected antiviral activity of fluoxetine is scientifically very significant and draws our attention to previously overlooked potential targets of fluoxetine and other psychogenic drugs,” says California NanoSystems Institute scientific director, Robert Damoiseaux.
The expert says that fluoxetine does not interfere with viral entry or translation directly. Rather, it significantly reduces the production of viral RNA and protein, therefore limiting the pathogens' spread.