This drug could inhibit COVID-19 virus, may help treat infections

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a recent study published in Science, 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.

The study is from the University of Chicago. One author of the study is Prof. Savas Tay.

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 anti-inflammatory drug could reduce COVID-19 death risk and findings of these two drugs may help you recover from severe COVID-19.

For more information about COVID and your health, please see recent studies about this drug may help prevent serious illness in COVID-19 and results showing that this drug may improve survival in people with diabetes and COVID-19.

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