SARS-CoV-2: a drug could block its transmission

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Currently, there is no standard antiviral treatment for patients infected with SARS-Cov-2. But researchers are testing molnupiravir, an oral drug that could block infectivity in patients within 24 hours.

Currently, several drugs of the family of antivirals are being studied against the Covid-19 epidemic, with the aim of developing a treatment that is active from the beginning of the Sars-Cov2 infection. Although at the same time the commercialization of a vaccine is more relevant than ever, researchers at Georgia State University are currently working to treat the infection with a new antiviral drug called "MK-4482 / EIDD-2801" or "Molnupiravir (su tradename)". And according to their recent results published in the journal Nature Microbiology, this molecule could completely suppress the transmission of the virus in 24 hours.

The researchers originally found the drug to be potent against influenza viruses. "This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug to rapidly block the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This could be a game changer," explains Professor Richard Plemper, who led the study.

The scientific team says the goal is not to develop a single treatment, but to interrupt the widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 until mass vaccination is available worldwide. "It is essential to manage COVID-19 and mitigate the catastrophic consequences of this pandemic," he adds.

The objective: to limit the appearance of epidemic foci

The drug has the advantage of being administered orally as opposed to other therapies currently being studied, such as remdesivir and plasma from people recovering from infection, administered intravenously. Molnupiravir treatment can be started early for a potential triple benefit: inhibiting the progression of infection to a severe form, shortening the infectious phase to alleviate the emotional and socioeconomic cost of long-term confinement, and limiting the risk of cluster. The latter is currently being tested in ferrets, animals sensitive to the virus and capable of transmitting it like humans.

These tests found that the drug has broad-spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and that treatment of infected animals significantly reduced the amount of viral particles excreted, thus reducing the risk of transmission. "These properties have made MK-4482 / EIDD-2801 a powerful candidate for the pharmacological control of COVID-19," explains Prof. Richard Plemper. "We believe that ferrets are a relevant transmission model because they easily spread SARS-CoV-2 but generally do not develop serious diseases. It is very similar to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among young adults."

Conclusive animal tests

Researchers infected six ferrets with SARS-CoV-2 and began Molnupiravir treatment when all animals began shedding the virus through their noses. When they put three infected animals and then treated them in the same cage as normal "contact" ferrets, none of them were infected. In comparison, the "contact" ferrets of the three infected ferrets that received only a placebo were infected.

Scientists believe that if these preliminary data are successfully translated into humans, COVID-19 patients receiving this drug could become non-infectious within 24 hours of starting oral therapy.

The drug is currently in phase II / III clinical trials, where it is tested in three different doses every 12 hours for five days in COVID-19 patients. But the data would not be available before May 2021.

Note that several drug candidates targeting different mechanisms of action on SARS-CoV-2 are currently being studied. In particular drugs that aim to stop the multiplication of the virus, such as antivirals but also drugs whose use consists of modulating the patients immune system: vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, donor antibodies (convalescent plasma), etc.

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