Common blood thinner drug may help treat COVID-19, study shows

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SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, uses a surface spike protein to latch onto human cells, and initiate infection.

In a recent study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, researchers found that a common drug, already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), may also be a powerful tool in fighting COVID-19.

They found drug heparin, a blood thinner available in non-anticoagulant varieties, can bind tightly with the surface spike protein, potentially blocking the infection from happening.

This makes it a decoy, which might be introduced into the body using a nasal spray or nebulizer and run interference to lower the odds of infection.

The study is published in Antiviral Research. One author is Robert Linhardt, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology.

The team says similar decoy strategies have already shown promise in curbing other viruses, including influenza A, Zika, and dengue.

The approach could be used as an early intervention to reduce the infection among people who have tested positive but aren’t yet suffering symptoms.

In previous work, the team had shown the decoy strategy on viruses with a mechanism similar to SARS-CoV-2.

In 2019, they created a trap for dengue virus, attaching specific aptamers—molecules the viral latches will bind to—precisely to the tips and vertices of a five-pointed star made of folded DNA.

Floating in the bloodstream, the trap lights up when sprung, creating the world’s most sensitive test for mosquito-borne diseases.

In work prior to that, they created a synthetic polymer configured to match the sialic acid latch points on the influenza virus, reducing influenza A mortality in mice from 100% to 25% over 14 days.

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