Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers have discovered that ribavirin - one of the few drugs available to treat hepatitis C - works by creating a flood of new mutations that overwhelms the virus. Raul Andino, a microbiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, says this mechanism has long been known as error catastrophe.
Andino: When microorganisms accumulate too many mutations, their genetic material start to decline and they have this error catastrophe or what we call genetic meltdown because they cannot sustain themselves anymore.
Narrator: Andino says their discovery - the result of serendipity - will help drug companies develop more effective forms of ribavirin that may help treat a larger portion of hepatitis C patients.
Andino: I think the exciting aspect in these findings is that we have a new concept in terms of how an antiviral drug can work - a new concept in antiviral drug. And the question is how can we improve it?
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.