As the world scrambles to find a cure for the novel coronavirus, virologists in the US have reported a possible therapeutic treatment for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 infection.
Pathogenic coronaviruses are a major threat to global public health, as shown by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or SARS-CoV; Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV; and the newly emerged novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, revealed how small molecule protease inhibitors show potency against human coronaviruses.
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These coronavirus 3C-like proteases, known as 3CLpro, are strong therapeutic targets because they play vital roles in coronavirus replication.
“Vaccine developments and treatments are the biggest targets in Covid-19 research, and treatment is really key,” said study researcher Kyeong-Ok Chang from the Kansas State University in the US.
“This paper describes protease inhibitors targeting coronavirus 3CLpro, which is a well-known therapeutic target,” Chang added.
The current study demonstrated that this series of optimised coronavirus 3CLpro inhibitors blocked replication of the human coronaviruses MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 in cultured cells and in a mouse model for MERS.
These findings suggest that this series of compounds should be investigated further as a potential therapeutic for human coronavirus infection.
The research team has been using the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to develop antiviral drugs to treat MERS and human norovirus infections.Their work extends to other human viruses such as rhinoviruses and SARS-CoV-2.
“The work that this group of collaborators has been doing on antivirals and inhibitors for SARS and MERS for a number of years has been vital to their ability to quickly pivot to emphasise research on SARS-CoV-2 virus and therapeutics,” said Peter K. Dorhout from the Kansas State University.
“We would not have been able to come this far without important collaborations with our colleagues at other institutions. I think we are adding valuable information to the antiviral field,” the study authors wrote. (IANS)