Scientists find effective drug for diseases from COVID-19 to common cold

Credit: Usman Yousaf / Unsplash

In a study from UBC’s Life Sciences Institute, scientists found a compound that shows early promise at halting infections from a range of coronaviruses, including all variants of SARS-CoV-2 and the common cold.

The findings show a potential path toward antiviral treatments that could be used against many different pathogens.

Beyond COVID-19, there are many different types of coronaviruses that can cause serious and sometimes fatal diseases, and even more, are likely to emerge in the future.

Identifying a compound and the pathway by which it works to stop viruses is very important.

The researchers credit the compound’s broad effectiveness to the unique way it works.

Rather than targeting the virus itself, the compound targets a human cellular process that coronaviruses use to replicate.

Since viruses can’t reproduce on their own, they rely on protein-synthesis pathways in host cells to create copies of themselves. In the case of coronaviruses, they use a human enzyme called GSK3 beta that exists in all human cells.

In the study, the team found that coronaviruses hijack this human enzyme and use it to edit the protein that packs its genetic material.

The compound is part of a broader family of experimental drugs known as GSK3 inhibitors.

Since the late 1990s, scientists across academia and industry have been studying GSK3 inhibitors for their potential as treatments for a number of diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

By targeting this cellular pathway, rather than the virus itself, the researchers found broad activity against multiple pathogens.

They also found a pathway that is so far immune to changes between variants and different coronaviruses.

To identify the compound, the research team screened a library of nearly 100 known GSK3 inhibitors, provided through a collaboration between UBC and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company in Japan.

The compounds were tested in cell and tissue models infected with SARS-CoV-2 and the common cold virus.

The testing yielded multiple GSK3 inhibitors that showed a high level of effectiveness against the coronaviruses and low toxicity to human cells.

The leading compound, identified as T-1686568, inhibited both SARS-CoV-2 and the common cold virus, the main criteria the authors used in the search for broad-spectrum protection.

If you care about Covid, please read studies that Saliva test could show early warning for severe COVID-19, and what you need to know about bivalent boosters for covid-19.

For more information about Covid, please see recent studies about how the gut helps drive COVID-19, and results showing new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination.

The study was conducted by Dr. Yossef Av-Gay et al and published in Molecular Biomedicine.

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