100-Year-Old Antiseptic Could Battle Viruses and Superbugs

It does double duty, binding to DNA of both patients and bacteria
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2016 6:45 PM CST
100-Year-Old Antiseptic Could Battle Viruses and Superbugs
Workers wearing protective gear spray antiseptic solution as a precaution against the spread of the MERS virus at Uniplex Art Center in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, June 17, 2015.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

An antiseptic that German scientists invented in 1912 using coal tar has the potential to help treat and prevent both viral and bacterial infections, according to new research out of the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Australia. Acriflavine was used throughout both world wars as a shotgun approach to treat a wide range of ailments, including open wounds, bladder infections, gonorrhea, and the parasite that causes sleeping sickness, reports the Age, but it wasn't well understood and largely fell out of favor as the antibiotic penicillin took over. Now molecular biologists, who say acriflavine could be useful against drug-resistant superbugs, say they've discovered precisely what made it so effective.

Not only does acriflavine bind to the DNA of a patient, thereby triggering an immune response that could prove a useful preventive measure against anything from influenza to the common cold, but it also binds to bacteria, which slows its spread and gives the host's immune system more time to spring to action. "A lot of things are being dropped because they're not that efficient, but in fact going back to them might be a good idea because they're very well characterized," one researcher tells ABC. The researcher says the drug is cheap and easy to transport as it is not sensitive to fluctuations in temperature or humidity. (The cure for a deadly superbug could be hiding in our noses.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.