ISLAMABAD, MARCH 16 (Online): A study has found that newly engineered antiviral compounds can neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in human airway cells. The compounds also improved survival rates in mice infected with MERS.
Research to find an effective COVID-19 treatment is ongoing.
Corona viruses are a large group of viruses responsible for respiratory tract infections, ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome Although corona viruses are a familiar threat, currently no vaccines or antiviral drugs can prevent or treat the infections in people.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the need for effective treatments and drug development. Scientists are hard at work, trying to find an antiviral agent effective against SARS-CoV-2.
Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.
Much hope has been placed in remdesivir, an antiviral drug that was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola.
However, recent clinical practice guidelines developed by an international panel give only a “weak” recommendation for the drug in patients with severe COVID-19, and one recent study suggested that seaweed extract could be more effective.
Amid the continued search for a COVID-19 treatment, new research has homed in on a group of antiviral compounds that target an essential enzyme in corona viruses.
The study’s authors report that the compounds drastically improved survival rates in a mouse model of MERS and neutralized SARS-CoV-2 in cells from people with COVID-19.
The findings appear in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
An essential protease
The research, led by scientists from Wichita State University, in Kansas, is based on the inhibition of a critical viral enzyme called 3C-like protease.
This enzyme is essential for the virus to replicate, and therefore survive, and given its crucial role, the enzyme is sometimes known simply as the “main protease.”
The researchers behind the present study specialize in making inhibitors of this enzyme and had previously developed an inhibitor, called GC376 that targets corona virus infections in animals.
They showed that the compound could reverse the progression of severe feline infectious peritonitis, a corona virus disease in cats that is fatal in every case. All the cats who received the drug for more than 2 weeks made a full recovery.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team redirected its focus to the novel corona virus in humans, SARS-CoV-2.
They synthesized a number of antiviral compounds with activity against a range of corona viruses. In the first line of tests, the compounds were screened for antiviral activity against MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2.
They looked at the ability of the compounds to inhibit the 3C-like protease of these viruses, first in an isolated fashion, then inside cells. Since the protease has not been found in humans, it is a perfect target for an antiviral agent.