Buoyed by advances in molecular biology, a handful of researchers in labs around the US and Canada are homing in on strategies that could eliminate not just individual viruses but any virus, wiping out viral infections with the same wide-spectrum efficiency that penicillin and Cipro bring to the fight against bacteria. If these scientists succeed, future generations may struggle to imagine a time when we were at the mercy of viruses, just as we struggle to imagine a time before antibiotics.
Three teams in particular are zeroing in on new antiviral strategies, with each group taking a slightly different approach to the problem. But at root they are all targeting our own physiology, the aspects of our cell biology that allow viruses to take hold and reproduce. If even one of these approaches pans out, we might be able to eradicate any type of virus we want. Someday we might even be faced with a question that today sounds absurd: Are there viruses that need protecting?