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New antiviral drugs could potentially have an effect on coronavirus. Specialists design the antivirals to fight one certain type of virus, however, they often tend to work against others as well. The reason is that viruses use proteins to copy their genomes, and many different types of viruses use these exact proteins called polymerase. The same goes for the coronavirus, it can’t grow and spread through the body of a host, without the help of this protein. In this article, we are going to explain to you what is the possibility to develop an antiviral drug that can target Covid-19 and its variations.

Can antiviral drugs kill coronavirus?

Recently researchers from Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have identified some molecules that inhibit the polymerase reaction (not letting the virus use this protein to grow and spread). There is news that some of these molecules have already been FDA-approved to treat other viruses. Researchers reported in the journal Antiviral Research, that they pinpointed five existing drugs that are able to stop the polymerase reaction. In that list are antivirals that are used to treat HIV and hepatitis B.

As we mentioned above, the coronavirus uses polymerase (a type of protein) to duplicate its genome inside of an infected cell. However, if that action can be stopped, the immune system will identify and kill the coronavirus on its own.

The team of researchers started to search how to interrupt the polymerase reaction by investigating an active compound of Gilead’s hepatitis C blockbuster Sovaldi. They analyzed a triphosphate ( a salt or acid that contains three phosphate groups) that were found in previous experiments to halt the polymerase reaction of SARS-CoV-2. After that, they selected 11 ingredients that they thought would have the best abilities to stop the coronavirus from using the polymerase. According to the researchers, from all of the compounds, only three seem to work.

Which are the 5 FDA-approved drugs against COVID?

After this research was conducted and the results were considered by the FDA, they approved five drugs that could potentially fight COVID. They are:

  • ViiV’s Ziagen (used to treat HIV);
  • Bristol Myers Squibb’s Zerit (used to treat HIV);
  • Roche’s Valcyte (used to treat cytomegalovirus);
  • Gilead’s Vistide (used to treat cytomegalovirus); 
  • BMS’ Baraclude (used to treat hepatitis B).

The Columbia and University of Wisconsin researchers are following up with another step in their journey by performing cell-culture studies to exhibit the potential of the five FDA-approved antiviral drugs against coronavirus. After that, they can modify the most effective of the drugs to advance it to further studies.  

Dr. Disha Trivedi

Author Dr. Disha Trivedi

Dr. Disha Trivedi is PhD in Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology. She is working as a medical writer and researcher at MVS Pharma GmbH.

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