Powerful antiviral treatment for COVID-19 discovered that could change the way outbreaks are handled


Illustration of COVID-19 antibodies

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have discovered a new antiviral property of a drug that could have major implications in the management of future epidemics / pandemics, including Covid-19.

The study, published in Virus, shows that thapsigargin is a promising broad-spectrum antiviral, very effective against the Covid-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2), a common cold coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza A virus.

Since acute respiratory viral infections caused by different viruses are clinically indistinguishable on presentation, an effective broad spectrum that can target different types of virus at the same time could significantly improve clinical management. Such an antiviral could potentially be made available to the community to control active infection and its spread.

The study is a collaborative project led by Professor Kin-Chow Chang and experts from the University of Nottingham (schools of medicine and veterinary sciences, biosciences, pharmacy, medicine and chemistry) and colleagues from the Agency for animal and plant health (APHA). , China Agricultural University and Pirbright Institute.

In this groundbreaking study, the team of experts found that the plant-based antiviral, in small doses, elicits a highly effective, host-centered, broad-spectrum innate antiviral immune response against three main types of viruses. respiratory tracts – including Covid-19.

The main characteristics based on cell and animal studies, which make thapsigargin a promising antiviral, are:

  • effective against viral infection when used before or during active infection
  • capable of preventing a virus from reproducing in cells for at least 48 hours after a single 30 minute exposure.
  • stable in acidic pH, as found in the stomach, and therefore can be taken orally, so could be administered without the need for injections or hospitalization.
  • not susceptible to virus resistance.
  • at least several hundred times more effective than current antiviral options.
  • just as effective in blocking infection combined with coronavirus and influenza A virus as in single virus infection.
  • safe as an antiviral (a derivative of thapsigargin has been tested in prostate cancer).

Professor Chang said: “Although we are still in the early stages of research on this antiviral and its impact on how viruses such as Covid-19 can be treated, these results are extremely significant.

“The current pandemic highlights the need for effective antivirals to treat active infections, as well as for vaccines to prevent infection. Since future pandemics are likely to be of animal origin, where animal-to-human (zoonotic) and reverse zoonotic (human-to-animal) spread will take place, a new generation of antivirals, such as thapsigargin, could play a role. a key role in the control and treatment of important viral infections in humans and animals. “

Indeed, the influenza virus, the coronavirus and the RSV are global pathogens in both humans and animals. Thapsigargin represents a leading compound in the development of a new generation of potent host-centric antivirals (as opposed to conventional antivirals that directly target viruses) that could even be adopted in a holistic “One Health” approach to controlling viruses. humans and animals.

Professor Chang adds, “Although more testing is clearly needed, the current results strongly indicate that thapsigargin and its derivatives are promising antiviral treatments against COVID-19 and the influenza virus, and have the potential to defend us against the next pandemic of disease X. ”

Reference: February 2, 2021, Virus.

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