An antibiotic found in sharks can possibly be used to treat human viruses, a new study suggests.

Squalamine has been used in human clinical trials for cancer and eye disorders, and now scientists want to see if it can treat infections from viruses such as yellow fever and hepatitis. 

We may be able to harness the shark's novel immune system to turn all of these antiviral compounds into agents that protect humans against a wide variety of viruses, lead author Michael Zasloff said in a Georgetown University Medical Center statement. While many antibacterial agents exist, doctors have few antiviral drugs to help their patients, and few of those are broadly active. 

Squalamine, according to Zasloff, impedes the growth of rapidly growing blood vessels.

To realize that squalamine potentially has broad antiviral properties is immensely exciting, especially since we already know so much from ongoing studies about its behavior in people, the study's lead author Michael Zasloff said in a GUMC statement. 

The discovery was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.