This existing drug could inhibit COVID-19 virus, study finds

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In a new study from the University of Chicago, researchers found that the drug masitinib may be effective in treating COVID-19.

They found the drug inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in human cell cultures and in a mouse model, leading to much lower viral loads.

Researchers also found that the drug could be effective against many types of coronaviruses and picornaviruses. Because of the way it inhibits replication, it has also been shown to remain effective in the face of COVID-19 variants.

They say inhibitors of the main protease of SARS-CoV-2, like masitinib, could be a new potential way to treat COVID patients, especially in the early stages of the disease.

When COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020, the team began to think about how they could help.

To search for a better treatment for the disease, they began by screening a library of 1,900 clinically safe drugs against OC43, a coronavirus that causes the common cold and can be studied under regular biosafety conditions.

They then tested the top 30 drug candidates in cell cultures against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and revealed nearly 20 drugs that inhibit SARS-CoV-2.

They also found that of the drug candidates, masitinib completely inhibited further viral replication.

Though masitinib is currently only approved to treat mast cell tumors in dogs, it has undergone human clinical trials for several diseases, including melanoma, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and asthma.

It has been shown to be safe in humans but does cause side effects, including gut disorders and could potentially raise a patient’s risk for heart disease.

Next, the researchers tested the drug in a mouse model. They found that it reduced the SARS-CoV-2 viral load by more than 99% and reduced inflammatory cytokine levels.

In parallel, the researchers also began to test the drug in cell cultures against other viruses and found that it was also effective against picornaviruses, which include Hepatitis A, polio, and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold.

They also tested it in cell cultures against three SARS-CoV-2 variants, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, and found that it worked equally well against them, since it binds to the protease and not to the surface of the virus.

Now, the team is working with the pharmaceutical company that developed the drug (AB Science) to tweak the drug to make it an even more effective antiviral.

Meanwhile, masitinib itself could be taken to human clinical trials in the future to test it as a COVID-19 treatment.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about this antiviral drug could effectively stop spread and damage of COVID-19 and findings of this common habit linked to severe COVID-19 and death.

For more information about COVID and your health, please see recent studies about this drug can fully prevent symptomatic COVID-19 infections and results showing why some people have severe COVID-19, while others have no symptoms.

The study is published in Science. One author of the study is Prof. Savas Tay.

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