In a new study, researchers found that treatment of COVID-19 infection with a new antiviral drug, MK-4482/EIDD-2801 or Molnupiravir, completely suppresses virus transmission within 24 hours.
This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug to rapidly block COVID-19 transmission. They originally discovered that the drug could fight against influenza viruses.
The research was conducted by a team at Georgia State University.
Interrupting widespread community transmission of COVID-19 until mass vaccination is available is paramount to managing COVID-19.
Because the drug can be taken by mouth, treatment can be started early for a potentially three-fold benefit: inhibit patients’ progress to severe disease, shorten the infectious phase to ease the emotional and socio-economic toll of prolonged patient isolation, and rapidly silence local outbreaks.
The team noted early on that MK-4482/EIDD-2801 has broad-spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and that treating infected animals by mouth with the drug lowers the amount of shed viral particles by several orders of magnitude, dramatically reducing transmission.
These properties made MK-4482/EIDD/2801 a powerful candidate for pharmacologic control of COVID-19.
In the study, the team repurposed MK-4482/EIDD-2801 against COVID-19 and used a ferret model to test the effect of the drug on halting virus spread.
The researchers initiated treatment with MK-4482/EIDD-2801 when the animals started to shed the virus from the nose.
When they co-housed those infected and then treated source animals with untreated contact ferrets in the same cage, none of the contacts became infected.
By comparison, all contacts of source ferrets that had received a placebo became infected.
If these ferret-based data translate to humans, COVID-19 patients treated with the drug could become non-infectious within 24 hours after the beginning of treatment.
One author of the study is Dr. Richard Plemper, Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State.
The study is published in Nature Microbiology.
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