Feline antiviral treatment found effective against COVID-19

September 4, 2020

A drug used to cure a fatal disease caused by a coronavirus in cats is suspected to be an effective treatment for humans, against SARS-CoV-2. According to research at a Canadian university, the drug is a protease inhibitor that interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate, thus putting an end to COVID-19 infection. Proteases are common targets for drugs to treat everything from high blood pressure to cancer and HIV.

“Our results have shown that the drug is effective at inhibiting viral replication in cells with SARS-CoV-2,” said Joanne Lemieux, a professor of biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, the University of Alberta (UofA). “This drug is very likely to work in humans, so we’re encouraged that it will be an effective antiviral treatment for COVID-19 patients.”

Testing the protease inhibitor against SARS-CoV-2 was a collaborative effort between four UofA laboratories where the three-dimensional shape of the protease with the inhibitor in the active site pocket and the mechanism of inhibition was determined.

Lemieux said the current drug shows enough antiviral action against SARS-CoV-2 to proceed immediately to clinical trials. “Typically for a drug to go into clinical trials, it has to be confirmed in the lab and then tested in animal models, [because] this drug has already been used to treat cats with coronavirus and is effective with little to no toxicity, it’s already passed those stages and this allows us to move forward.”

While Lemieux will continue to test modifications of the drug to make it an even better fit inside the virus, the UofA team will work with Anivive Life Sciences, a veterinary medicine company that is developing the drug for cats, to produce the quality and quantity of drug needed for human clinical trials.

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 US and Canada.


Category: Features, Pharmaceuticals

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