In a new study from the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere, researchers found that an experimental antiviral drug can strongly decrease levels of the virus causing COVID-19 and the damage it causes in the lungs.
They found that MK-4482—initially developed to treat influenza—was effective when provided up to 12 hours before or 12 hours after infection with SARS-CoV-2.
The drug is currently undergoing human clinical trials, but researchers say its ability to be provided orally could offer a big advance on existing antivirals being used to treat COVID-19.
Remdesivir, for example, has already been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration but must be provided intravenously, making its use primarily limited to clinical settings at later stages of the disease.
The team says in contrast to vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, researchers really don’t have many drugs that are effective against the virus.
This is an exciting result that identifies MK-4482 as an additional antiviral against SARS-CoV-2. The drug, also called Molnupiravir, is in the final stages of human clinical trials in SARS-CoV-2 infected patients.
If the final human data show a similar antiviral effect, the results suggest it may be suitable for use as an orally administered pill following exposure to the virus, similar to the way people use Tamiflu for influenza.
The same research group developed a model last year which uses hamsters to mimic SARS-CoV-2 infection and mild disease in people.
At the conclusion of the study, the animals in treatment groups had 100 times fewer infectious virus in their lungs than the control group.
Animals in the treatment groups also had significantly fewer lesions in the lungs than the control group.
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The study is published in Nature Communications. One author of the study is Dr. Michael Jarvis.
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