Drug used to treat deadly coronavirus infections in cats may be an effective treatment for COVID-19


In a search for COVID-19 treatments, researchers are looking for a drug used on cats.

Researchers at the University of Alberta worked with SLAC radiology scientists to explore the potential of a feline coronavirus drug that could be effective against SRAS-CoV-2.

University of Alberta researchers have shown that a drug used to treat deadly coronavirus infections in cats could potentially be an effective treatment for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the pandemic world of coronavirus. The results were published in the journal Nature communications.

The study, which was aided by scientists at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, paves the way for human clinical trials, which are expected to begin soon, said Joanne Lemieux, professor of biochemistry at University of Alberta and lead author of the study. .

Joanne Lemieux and a team at the University of Alberta have found that a drug used in cats can help treat infections with SARS-CoV-2. Credit: Image courtesy Joanne Lemieux

“This drug is very likely to work in humans, so we are encouraged that this be an effective treatment for COVID-19[feminine[feminine patients, ”said Lemieux, although clinical trials will need to run their course before anyone can be sure the drug, a protease inhibitor called GC376, is both safe and effective in treating COVID-19 in humans. .

In cats at least, GC376 works by interfering with a virus’s ability to replicate, thus ending an infection. Derivatives of this drug were first studied after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and it was developed by veterinary researchers who were shown to cure a fatal feline disease.

Lemieux and his colleagues at the University of Alberta first tested two variants of the feline drug against the SARS-CoV-2 protein in test tubes and with the virus living in human cell lines, then crystallized them. variants of the drug in conjunction with viral proteins. Working with Silvia Russi, crystallographer and beamline scientist for the Structural Molecular Biology program at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), the researchers determined the direction of the cat drug when it bound to a active site on a SARS-CoV-2 protein. , revealing how it inhibits viral replication.

“This will allow us to develop even more effective drugs,” Lemieux said, and the team will continue to test modifications to the inhibitor to make it a better fit inside the virus.

Aina Cohen, senior scientist at SLAC and division head of structural molecular biology at SSRL, said she was excited about the drug’s effectiveness and SSRL’s ability to help. “Until an effective vaccine can be developed and deployed, drugs like these add to our arsenal of treatments for COVID-19,” she said. “We are excited to learn of these important results and look forward to hearing the results of the clinical trials.”

Reference: “Feline Coronavirus Drug Inhibits Major SARS-CoV-2 Protease and Blocks Virus Replication” by Wayne Vuong, Muhammad Bashir Khan, Conrad Fischer, Elena Arutyunova, Tess Lamer, Justin Shields, Holly A. Saffran , Ryan T. McKay, Marco J. van Belkum, Michael A. Joyce, Howard S. Young, D. Lorne Tyrrell, John C. Vederas and M. Joanne Lemieux, August 27, 2020, Nature’s communications.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-18096-2

The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Extraordinary SSRL operations were supported in part by the DOE Office of Science through the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory, a consortium of DOE national laboratories focused on the COVID-19 response, with funding provided by the CARES Coronavirus Act. SSRL is a user installation of the DOE Office of Science. SSRL’s Structural Molecular Biology program is supported by the DOE Bureau of Science and the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences.


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