New routes to sialidase inhibitors: Synthesis, characterization, and evaluation of novel sialic acid derivatives

For many people, infection with the influenza virus results in several days of illness. Yet, each year, the virus is responsible for approximately one million deaths worldwide. Vaccines are the most common preventive treatment, but they only protect vaccinated individuals against those strains identified by the World Health Organization as being the most virulent in any given season. When a new strain of influenza appears against which humans have no immunity – as occurred with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 (which killed 20 million people worldwide), the Asian flu pandemic of 1957, and the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968 – the result is a pandemic that could infect and kill hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Better treatments and preventative measures to fight influenza infection are needed to counter this threat. There are currently two major anti-influenza drugs on the market that selectively inhibit a viral enzyme that is critical to spreading infection. While these drugs are effective, the influenza virus is resilient and by mutating can develop drug-resistant strains. Ivan Hemeon is researching the development of new anti-influenza compounds that have a much lower risk of generating resistant strains. Hopefully, people treated with these compounds would experience less severe symptoms and recover faster without the risk of harbouring resistant strains that could be passed on to others, particularly those made more vulnerable due to compromised immune systems.