Powerful antiviral treatment for COVID-19 discovered that could change how epidemics are managed

Researchers from the University of Nottingham have discovered a new antiviral property of a drug that could have major consequences in dealing with future epidemics / pandemics – including Covid-19.

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

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

The study is a collaborative project led by Professor Kin-Chow Chang and experts at the University of Nottingham (Schools of Veterinary Science, Life Sciences, Pharmacy, Medicine and Chemistry) and colleagues from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) , China Agricultural University and the Pirbright Institute.

In this groundbreaking study, the team of experts found that the plant-derived antiviral agent, at small doses, elicited an effective broad-spectrum host-centered antiviral innate immune response against three main types of human respiratory viruses – including Covid-19.

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

  • effective against viral infection when used before or during active infection
  • is able to prevent a virus from making new copies in the cells for at least 48 hours after a single exposure of 30 minutes.
  • stable in acidic pH, as found in the stomach, and thus can be taken orally, can be administered without the injection or hospitalization.
  • not sensitive to virus resistance.
  • at least a few hundred times more effective than current antiviral options.
  • just as effective in blocking combined infection with coronavirus and influenza A virus as in single virus infection.
  • safe as an antiviral drug (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 drug and its impact on how viruses such as Covid-19 can be treated, these findings are extremely important.

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

Indeed, influenza virus, coronavirus and RSV are global pathogens of humans as well as animals. Thapsigargin is a leader in the development of a new generation of powerful antiviral drugs for host-centered drugs (as opposed to conventional antiviral drugs that target viruses directly), which can even be applied in a holistic ‘One Health’ approach to to control human and animal viruses.

Professor Chang adds: “While it is clearly necessary to test more, current findings strongly suggest that thapsigargin and its derivatives promise antiviral treatments against COVID-19 and influenza virus, and can protect us from the next disease X pandemic. ”

Reference: February 2, 2021, Viruses.

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