TAMPA (FOX 13) - It's a major step forward in the fight against the Zika virus. Researchers have identified two drugs, one which is already on the market and another in testing, that could potentially stop the virus's devastating effects on the body.
After months of worrisome news on the Zika virus and its increasing reach, there's finally a glimmer of hope.
"This is, probably I think, going to be a virus that is cured sooner than later," said Florida State University Virologist Emily Lee.
A research team from Florida State University and Johns Hopkins University, as well as the National Institutes of Health found that Nicolsamide, an inexpensive drug commonly used to treat tapeworm, could stop the Zika virus from replicating in the body. It showed no danger to pregnant women in animal studies.
They're also looking at another drug, Emricasan, which is still being tested to treat liver disease. Researchers believe it could prevent the Zika virus from killing fetal brain cells.
The fact that there's already clinical information on both of these compounds is a major benefit. "We can effectively, in the future, kind of fast track these drugs through clinical trials," Lee said.
Nicolsamide is FDA approved so, it essentially, could be prescribed today. But, much more testing needs to be done to determine how it would actually be used to treat patients with Zika.
Lee added a word of caution with their findings. "It's very important that we don't get too optimistic. We should be happy with these findings, but we should continue working at full force to find additional drugs that can work."
The breakthrough comes days ahead of the arrival of a storm which could leave Tampa Bay flooded, soggy and in prime shape for mosquito breeding
"After the storm, if there has been wind damage to roofs, to screens, certainly, when you think of gutters, for example, where there is water standing in gutters, all of those things can contribute to the increased risk of getting bitten by a mosquito," said FOX 13's Dr. Joette Giovinco.
To prepare, the city of Tampa is buying 10,000 more mosquito dunks, each one capable of killing off mosquito larvae for 30 days.
Feeding Tampa Bay is handing out 15,000 cans of mosquito repellent to needy families. And, if you visit Busch Gardens, Sea World, Disney World and Universal Studios, you'll now find plenty of free EPA-approved insect repellent available.