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March 14, 2014

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Scientists discover compound for HFMD

CHINESE scientists have discovered a small molecular chemical compound that can be used for treating the hand, foot and mouth disease, a highly contagious viral infection that affects infants and children below five years old.

The compound has been found to be effective on both coxsackievirus A16 (Cox A16) and enterovirus 71 (EV71), the two major viruses that cause the disease, scientists said at the two-day Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting which opened in Shanghai yesterday.

“It is a very promising and important discovery, which can protect the children from the disease and reduce their discomfort,” said Rao Zihe, president of Biophysical Society of China and chief scientist of the research.

“We will start pre-clinical studies soon and hope to launch trials after a year if the application goes smoothly,” he said.

“Since the major 2008 outbreak of the hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in Southeast Asia, there are over 1 million Chinese children who are infected with the disease every year. Over 2,000 Chinese children have succumbed to the disease so far,” Rao said.

In 2012, a record high of 2.17 million children were reported to have been inflicted by the disease, according to the national health authority.

Rao and his colleagues started to study the disease in early 2011. “We found a target on the surface of the viruses and the useful chemical compound to deal with the viruses,” he said.

HFMD, which spreads after coming into direct contact with infected people or items with virus on it, is a common and highly contagious viral infection that usually causes mild rash on the hands and feet along with symptoms of fever and sore throat.

In serious cases, it affects the nerve, respiration and circulation.

If it develops into encephalitis, carditis and pulmonary edema, it could be fatal.

EV71 is more severe and can lead to neurological or cardiac complications.

“By being able to contain EV71 the new discovery can prevent fatalities,” Rao said yesterday.

Wang Mingwei, director of the National Center for Drug Screening, said the research and the discovery were a good example of drug innovation of China, which is pushing innovation and collaboration in the pharmaceutical industry.


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