It’s contagious, potentially life threatening and currently has no effective drug treatment – every parent’s worst nightmare, in other words.
But researchers at Griffith University have dealt a blow to hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), an infection that spreads easily through child care centres and kindergartens.
Australia has seen major outbreaks over the past three years and HFMD is becoming more prevalent across the Asia-Pacific region – Chinese authorities reported nine million cases and 2,500 deaths between 2008 and 2013 alone.
Usually it causes only a mild rash on the hands, feet or mouth but severe cases can lead to meningitis, encephalitis, polio-like paralysis or even death.
Thankfully, the Griffith University team has discovered small, potent molecules that block its development.
Researcher Mark von Itzsein says the disease can infect anyone but children under five seem especially vulnerable.
“We are hopeful that the findings of this research project will lead to an effective treatment to fight HFMD in its very early stages, and in turn offer peace of mind to millions of people around the world,” Professor von Itzstein says.
“Especially concerned parents.”
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