A drug to treat HIV could be just the thing to battle Zika virus

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A drug used to treat HIV may be the key to stopping another deadly virus. 

Zika virus can cause muscle paralysis, abnormally small heads in newborns and death, and there is no treatment.

But Dr. Jennifer Gordon, associate professor of neuroscience at Temple University School of Medicine, says research shows the drug rilpivirine, which is used to treat HIV, also suppresses Zika and since it's already FDA approved, it can be prescribed immediately.

"Thousands and thousands of people take it for controlling their HIV everyday, it's been on the market for a number of years and it seems to be relatively safe, so I don't think there would be many downsides from a safety point. The question is how active it's going to be controlling the Zika virus infection," Gordon said. 

She says HIV and Zika have similarities in the proteins that control the virus and that's why it was thought the drug to treat one would also work on the other. This drug may also help in the treatment of other similar viruses, including dengue, Ebola and West Nile Virus.