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article imageCurrent medications can block coronavirus replication in the lab

By Tim Sandle     Aug 5, 2020 in Science
Scientists are undertaking a review of existing medicines to determine which ones might have sufficient anti-viral activity. This forms part of an area of scientific inquiry where medicines are 'repurposed'.
Most of the medical research funding to tackle the coronavirus is going into vaccine development; a smaller proportion is being directed into examining what the current stock of medicines might be able to achieve in relation to inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This forms part of a standard practice whereby existing drugs are assessed against emerging diseases; or older medicines are used in new combinations to address more challenging medical conditions. This process of repurposing is often far cheaper, and far quicker, than attempting to develop novel medicines.
In relation to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a team of scientists have undertaken a detailed search through the world's largest collection of medicines (the ReFRAME Drug Repurposing Library -which holds 11,987 compounds). This process identified 21 potential treatments for COVID-19.
The 21 were subsequently reduced to 13 drugs, which harbor effective concentrations likely commensurate with appropriate therapeutic doses in patients. The compounds included the PIKfyve kinase inhibitor apilimod2–4, plus the cysteine protease inhibitors MDL-28170, Z LVG CHN2, VBY-825, and ONO 5334.
The activity, according Science Alert, against SARS-CoV-2 was demonstrated a line of cells cultured from the kidney of an African green monkey (Chlorocebus sp.).
A description of the compounds has been published in the science journal Nature, in a paper titled "Discovery of SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drugs through large-scale compound repurposing."
At this stage, further research is needed to assess if any of the medicines can be used to treat COVID-19 patients. However, the discovery of potential medicines does offer the prospect that one or two of them could be successful. Given that the time for vaccine development could be anywhere between 12-18 months, and the typical timeline for approval of a novel antiviral therapeutic can exceed 10 years, then the examination of the 21 potential drug candidates carries a new imperative and could accelerate the deployment of alternative therapies to inactivate the virus.
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