In a study from the University of Cambridge and elsewhere, scientists found a compound efficient in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 that could be broadly applied to treat different variants of the virus.
They discovered that the compound piperlongumine (PL), extracted from the long pepper, the natural ingredient used most extensively in Indian medical systems, has a potent antiviral effect in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 in mice.
They found that PL delays disease progression and reduces lung inflammation in a mouse model mimicking COVID-19 infection.
The action of this compound in the organism, which was previously studied in the treatment of cancer, is the induction of a stress response in the host cells.
In the study, the team saw that this stress response is selective for infected cells.
This is quite advantageous because PL acts on the cells infected by the virus and not on the virus itself, making it a potential antiviral treatment that can be efficient in upcoming variants of SARS-CoV-2 or even different viruses, to fight future outbreaks.
The researchers tested PL treatment in mice infected with alpha, delta and omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 and the treatment is efficient in decreasing the amount of virus in the three different variants.
To access the relevance of the compound as a potential treatment, the effect of PL was compared with Plitidepsin, an antiviral administered subcutaneously that is already known to reduce viral load in SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The team says the compound studied in this work, PL, can be particularly relevant as an antiviral since it exerts its antiviral action by affecting the host cells, instead of the virus.
This makes PL a great new drug to be used in upcoming variants of SARS-CoV-2 and even other viruses.
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The study was conducted by Gonçalo Bernardes et al and published in ACS Central Science.
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