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Antiviral Drug Discovery for Emerging Diseases and Bioterrorism Threats

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Promising drug discovery efforts in the race to cure emerging diseases and thwart bioterrorism

It was not too long ago that scientists believed that the discovery of powerful antimicrobial agents and vaccines would lead to the eradication of viral diseases. A warning, however, of the looming threat of viral diseases on U.S. national security was sounded in the 2000 National Intelligence Estimate, The Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the United States. This report predicted that infectious diseases would endanger U.S. citizens at home and abroad, threaten U.S. forces deployed overseas, and exacerbate social and political instability.

In the post-9/11 world, we can clearly see the gravity of those predictions, which greatly underscore the need for this timely publication. This is the first book that tackles head-on the myriad viral threats for which no effective drug treatments currently exist. Among the threats covered are potential bioterrorism agents and emerging viruses such as smallpox, influenza, Ebola, Marburg, SARS, Nipah, Hendra, Lassa fever, Junin, dengue, West Nile, and yellow fever.

The editor of this publication has assembled an international team of leading experts, giving readers a cutting-edge view on current drug discovery efforts to find novel antiviral agents in the battle to combat these diseases and threats. Following a general introduction to the problems of emerging diseases and bioterrorism, each chapter discusses potential strategies for the discovery of antiviral agents, reveals recent findings, and points to promising directions for further research. Many of the contributors have honed their knowledge and offer unique insights based on their work with powerful viruses such as herpes and HIV.

A variety of different strategies and targets are discussed in the ongoing exploration for effective treatment modalities. Specific targets of the virus's genomes and proteomes are presented as sources for antiviral agent prospectors. These include interferon evasion proteins, proteases, helicases, RNA polymerases, and methyl transferases. In addition, other targets presented are s-adenosylhomocystein hydrolase (SAH) and inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). Generic approaches discussed include lethal mutagenesis, immunocamouflage, and prenylation inhibitors. Prodrugs and acyclic nucleoside monophosphates are among the antiviral countermeasures presented from the medicinal/bioorganic chemical arsenal.

With so much at stake, the need to collect promising antiviral drug discovery strategies in one volume and disseminate it to all researchers in the field has never been greater. This is urgent reading for all researchers in medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, drug discovery, biochemistry, virology, microbiology, and public health. This publication can help them in their charge to protect the health of the world against the perilous threat of emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism.

About the Author

PAUL F. TORRENCE, PhD, is Professor of Chemistry at Northern Arizona University. He is the editor of Biomedical Chemistry: Applying Chemical Principles to the Understanding and Treatment of Disease and serves on the editorial boards for the journals Antiviral Research and Current Medicinal Chemistry.

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