New Influenza Treatment Found to be Effective at Inhibiting SARS Virus


HONG KONG -- PRB Pharmaceuticals (PRB) today announced that Hong Kong influenza sufferers will be the first in the world to receive Vira-38° -- a non-toxic, broad- spectrum antiviral treatment designed to provide a multi-pronged attack against influenza -- when it launches the treatment here early next month.

"Flu is responsible for more than 1 million deaths around the world each year and imposes a considerable health burden in the form of hospital and other healthcare costs, as well as lost productivity. This is in large part because there has not been an effective treatment for influenza," said Charles Hensley, PhD, co-founder and co-CEO of PRB. "The World Health Organization has estimated that in the United States alone, influenza costs the economy as much as $167 billion each year. With the onset of cold weather and the annual influenza cycle, the launch of Vira-38° in Hong Kong is extremely timely."

Open label clinical testing has shown that Vira-38° dramatically reduces the severity and duration of the flu. Vira-38° reduced the severity of the flu by 42 percent within the first 24 hours of treatment, and the average duration of the illness was 2.1 days. All symptoms were gone in all subjects in 2.5 days. Further clinical trials of Vira-38° are planned among influenza patients at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong, as a leading center for research into emerging viruses, and in particular influenza, is the logical place for us to continue our clinical research," said Dr. Hensley. "Our trials at the Prince of Wales Hospital are designed to provide us with further data as well as test additional clinical outcomes, such as Vira-38°'s ability to reduce secondary infections."

In separate in vitro testing undertaken by virologist and SARS expert Dr. John Tam, two of the anti-viral fractions in Vira-38° have been shown to be effective at inhibiting SARS CoV, the coronavirus responsible for the global outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

"Fractions from Vira-38° have strong antiviral properties," said Tam, who is director of virology at Hong Kong's Prince of Wales Hospital and a professor in the Department of Microbiology at Chinese University of Hong Kong. "The fact that we found not one but two of these fractions to be effective at inhibiting the virus responsible for causing SARS gives me reason to feel that this medicine holds great promise in the fight against SARS."

These same two fractions were shown previously to inhibit murine coronavirus in PRB research at the University of Southern California.

"SARS could re-emerge at any time," says Hensley, "and we are now in the process of testing to determine how these fractions work to inhibit SARS CoV as well as testing Vira-38° against SARS CoV infection in animals."

Tam added, "I am also conducting tests of the anti-viral compounds in Vira-38° against a variety of other emerging viruses, including bird flu, which is likely to be the cause of the next global flu pandemic."

PRB is establishing a regional research base in Hong Kong to oversee further development of the proprietary technology behind Vira-38° in response to the ongoing fight against emerging viruses, such as SARS, Avian Flu, and Japanese Encephalitis, among others.

Vira-38° will be distributed in Hong Kong by Growth Enterprise Market.

"We have been working closely with PRB on their antiviral projects, and are excited by the clinical testing. We believe that Vira-38° is poised to become the most effective treatment for flu on the world market," said Dr. Benjamin Li, chief technical officer at Lees Pharmaceuticals. "With influenza affecting 10-20% of the population at this time of year, we are rushing to make Vira-38° available for sale to patients in Hong Kong in early December 2003."

Source: PRB Pharmaceuticals

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