New oral antiviral drug blocks covid progress within 24 hours1 min read . Updated: 06 Dec 2020, 10:42 PM IST
Researchers claim Molnupiravir is the first orally available drug to rapidly block SARS-CoV-2 transmission
A new antiviral drug, Molnupiravir, could prove to be a game changer in the battle against covid-19. Researchers at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Georgia State University, are treating SARS-CoV-2 infection with this drug, which completely suppresses virus transmission within 24 hours.
The drug can be taken orally and as such treatment can be started early for a potential three-fold benefit of preventing the condition of the patient from becoming severe, shortening the infectious phase to ease the emotional and socioeconomic toll of prolonged isolation, and rapidly stopping local outbreaks.
This is significant as interrupting community transmission of covid-19 until mass vaccination is available is paramount to mitigating the catastrophic consequences of the pandemic, scientists said.
The drug is potent against influenza viruses, the group led by Dr Richard Plemper, distinguished professor at Georgia State, had discovered. “This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug to rapidly block SARS-CoV-2 transmission," said Plemper.
“We noted early on that Molnupiravir, or MK-4482/EIDD-2801, has broad-spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and treating infected animals by mouth with the drug lowers the amount of shed viral particles by several orders of magnitude, dramatically reducing transmission," he said. These properties made Molnupiravir a powerful candidate for pharmacologic control of covid-19, Plemper said.
Molnupiravir is an antiviral originally designed to fight the flu. Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck are collaborating to develop it as a treatment for covid-19.
The study published in Nature Microbiology shows how Plemper’s team repurposed MK-4482/EIDD-2801 against SARS-CoV-2 and used a ferret model to test the effect of the drug in containing the virus. “We believe ferrets are a relevant transmission model because they readily spread SARS-CoV-2, but mostly do not develop severe disease, which closely resembles SARS-CoV-2 spread in young adults," said Dr Robert Cox, a postdoctoral fellow in Plemper’s team.
The researchers infected ferrets with SARS-CoV-2 and initiated treatment when the animals started shedding virus from the nose. MK-4482/EIDD-2801 is in advanced phase II/III trials. The study was funded by public health grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to Georgia State.