In a new study from the University of Chicago, researchers found that the drug masitinib may be effective in treating COVID-19.
The drug is used to treat tumors in animals. It has undergone several clinical trials for human conditions but has not yet received approval to treat humans.
The team found it inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
They 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.
When COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020, the team 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 used cell cultures to determine the drugs’ effect on infection.
They then tested the top 30 drug candidates in cell cultures against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and found nearly 20 drugs that inhibit the virus.
They then found that of the drug candidates, masitinib was especially effective.
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 found that the drug reduced the SARS-CoV-2 viral load by more than 99% and reduced inflammatory cytokine levels in mice.
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 masitinib (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 drugs, please read studies about this existing drug could inhibit COVID-19 virus and findings of aspirin and other common anti-inflammatory drugs could help prevent COVID-19 deaths.
For more information about COVID and your health, please see recent studies about early use of this blood thinner drug may reduce COVID-19 death and results showing that this drug may prevent respiratory and heart damage in people with COVID-19.
The study is published in Science. One author of the study is Savas Tay.
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