A new broad-spectrum antiviral drug can cure 15 different virus strains in 11 mammalian cells including humans, new research indicates.

The drug, Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer (DRACO), may be able to treat viruses ranging from SARS and flu to HIV and hepatitis.

Medical science has yielded many antibacterial drugs but few that combat viruses. Moreover, the few vaccines developed for  viruses are highly specific and have to be updated constantly for each new strain.

To overcome these gaps and shortcomings, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory have developed an antiviral approach that is effective against a broad spectrum of viruses.

DRACO can be used to selectively kill infected virus cells without harming the uninfected ones. The findings documented in the journal PLoS ONE explained the chemical reactions involved in development of this miracle drug.

Several decades ago the discovery and production of antibiotics revolutionized the way bacterial infections were treated. We hope that this will similarly revolutionize the way viral infections are treated. That covers everything from cold and flu viruses to more serious clinical pathogens like HIV and hepatitis viruses and ultimately even more deadly viruses like Ebola and smallpox, study co-author Todd Rider told National Geographic.

Human bodies have an inherent defense mechanism of preventing invading virus strains from replicating by developing proteins that latch onto double-stranded RNA. But many strains have evolved mechanisms of shutting down these proteins. This is where the new drug comes into play.

The team of researchers has developed the drug that combines the natural-defense protein with another protein that triggers a cell's suicide switch.

Apart from humans, the drug has treated mice injected with a lethal dose of H1N1 flu virus. Rider and his team are also studying whether the drug can cure viral ailments in larger animals like guinea pigs and monkeys.