Promising test drug blocks early coronavirus infection in artificial human tissue


A research team led by a researcher from the University of British Columbia and supported by federal emergency funding may have found a test drug that can treat an early infection of the new coronavirus.

Led by Dr. Josef Penninger of the University of British Columbia, the team published peer-reviewed results on April 2 in the journal Cell, claiming that the test drug, called APN01, could “block significantly the “early stages” of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. .

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In an interview with Global News radio host Jill Bennett, Penninger describes the test drug as having two functions, one of which is to “physically block the door to the virus so it cannot enter” the body of a person.

“The second function is actually to protect tissues like the lung, heart or kidneys from damage,” he said.

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The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019, but has since spread around the world. The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic on March 11.

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So far, the disease has caused more than a million infections worldwide and more than 53,000 deaths at 11 p.m. AND April 2, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Countries around the world have implemented measures such as social distancing, quarantines, closures and border closings to reduce the spread of the virus and prevent it from overwhelming their respective health care systems.

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Despite this, Europe has recently faced the pandemic, with Italy and Spain accounting for a large number of the world’s deaths.

Last month, the federal government provided emergency funding to various researchers and institutions across Canada as part of its response to the pandemic.

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Years ago, Penninger helped find the route by which SARS entered human cells and began to replicate – the protein ACE2.

This knowledge has now led to a promising test drug for the treatment of early infections. Penninger said human clinical trials should take place in Europe.

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“This trial will probably last around two months, “he said. “At the start of summer, we should know if it works or not. “

The study published in Cell shows the drug “can reduce the virus 1,000 to 5,000 times “in artificial human tissue, he said. It’s a sign of hope as the world waits for a potential vaccine.

“OOur angle – I hope it works – will be a treatment for people who have already fallen ill, “said Penninger. “Because it’s very scary to get sick, and we don’t know what’s going on afterwards.” ”

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Currently stranded in Vienna, Austria due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic, the virus researcher said he had “warned everyone that it will be a dangerous virus “a few weeks ago.

But honestly, I had no idea it would go this far, that we now live in a society where we can no longer go out, “he said.

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However, he noted that mitigation and prevention measures in countries around the world are important because without them, 40 million deaths could have occurred in 2020 alone, according to a recent Imperial report. Middle School.

“I really hope our trial, I hope, will work,” said Penninger.

As of April 2, Canadian government epidemiological data showed that two-thirds (67%) of the more than 5,500 reported cases of COVID-19 in the country were linked to community transmission, the rest being exposed to the virus while traveling or exposed to a recently returned traveler.

– With files from the Canadian Press

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