Antiviral used to treat cat coronavirus also works against SARS-CoV-2

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Biochemist Joanne Lemieux has worked with three other researchers at the University of Alberta on a new study showing that a drug that cures deadly peritonitis in cats also works quite well against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to move quickly into human clinical trials. Credit: University of Alberta

Researchers at the University of Alberta are preparing to launch clinical trials of a drug used to treat a fatal disease caused by coronavirus in cats which they believe will also be effective as a treatment for humans for COVID- 19.

“In just two months, our results showed that the drug is effective in inhibiting viral replication in cells with SARS-CoV-2,” said Joanne Lemieux, professor of biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.

“This drug is very likely to work in humans, so we are encouraged that this be an effective antiviral treatment for patients with COVID-19. ”

The drug is a protease inhibitor that interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate, thereby ending an infection. Proteases are essential for many bodily functions and are common drug targets to treat everything from high blood pressure to cancer and HIV.

First studied by U of A chemist John Vederas and biochemist Michael James after the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, the protease inhibitor was developed by veterinary researchers who have shown to cure a fatal disease in cats.

The work to test the drug against the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 was a cooperative effort between four U of A laboratories, led by Lemieux, Vederas, professor of biochemistry Howard Young and founding director of the Institute of virology Li Ka Shing, Lorne Tyrrell. Some of these experiments were performed by Stanford’s Synchrotron Light Source Structural Molecular Biology Program.

Their findings were published today in the peer-reviewed journal Nature’s communications after being posted for the first time on BioRxIV, a research website.

“There is a rule with COVID research that all results must be made public immediately,” Lemieux said, which is why they were published before being peer reviewed.

She said interest in the work was high, with the newspaper seen thousands of times upon publication.

Lemieux explained that Vederas synthesized the compounds and Tyrrell tested them against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in test tubes and in human cell lines. The groups of Young and Lemieux then revealed the crystal structure of the drug when it binds to protein.

“We determined the three-dimensional shape of the protease with the drug in the pocket of the active site, showing the mechanism of inhibition,” she said. “This will allow us to develop even more effective drugs. ”

Lemieux said she would continue to test changes in the inhibitor to make it a better fit inside the virus.

But she said the current drug had enough antiviral action against SARS-CoV-2 to proceed to clinical trials immediately.

“Typically, for a drug to enter clinical trials, it needs to be confirmed in the lab and then tested in animal models,” Lemieux said. “Because this drug has already been used to treat cats with coronavirus and is effective with little to no toxicity, it has already passed those steps and it keeps us moving forward. ”

“Due to the strong data that we and others have gathered, we are continuing clinical trials for this drug as a COVID-19 antiviral. ”

The researchers have established a collaboration with Anivive Life Sciences, a veterinary medicine company that develops the medicine for cats, to produce the quality and quantity of medicine needed for clinical trials in humans. Lemieux said it will likely be tested in Alberta in combination with other promising antivirals such as remdesivir, the first treatment approved for conditional use in some countries, including the United States and Canada.


Antiviral Used To Treat Cat Coronavirus May Hold Key to COVID-19


More information:
Wayne Vuong et al, the feline coronavirus drug inhibits the major SARS-CoV-2 protease and blocks virus replication, Nature’s communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-18096-2

Provided by the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta

Citation: Antiviral used to treat cat coronavirus also works against SARS-CoV-2 (2020, August 27) retrieved August 27, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-08-antiviral-cat- coronavirus-sars-cov- .html

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