Coronavirus: Drugs could be repurposed by scientists to treat infection


New research zooms in on many antiviral drugs that scientists might repurpose with the novel coronavirus for treating infections. Teicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin, monensin, and emetine are among these drugs.

Scientists are trying to repurpose existing drugs for the novel coronavirus treatment.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) study, there are actually around the world 81,109 confirmed COVID-19 cases— a disease that occurs as a result of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus virus.

The transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has already caused 2,762 deaths worldwide.

There is currently no treatment for this infection, which means that doctors and health professionals can not do a great deal with those who have it.

While most healthy adults will rely on their immune system to fight the infection, COVID-19’s lack of cure or treatment is particularly worrying for older adults and those with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and hypertension.

The immediate need for care in those situations is dire. So, a group of European-based scientists have now reviewed a range of existing broad-spectrum antiviral drugs, hoping that some of them may be helpful in treating the new virus.

Denis Kainov, a senior author of the new paper, is an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. The results are published in the International Infectious Disease Journal.

Why repurpose existing drugs?

Kainov and colleagues reviewed and summarized the details on 119 antiviral “safe-in-man” agents, called antiviral broad-spectrum agents (BSAAs).

BSAAs are compounds targeting viruses “belonging to two or more viral families.” Researchers clarify in their study paper that the paradigm of one drug targeting only one virus is now transforming into an approach to “one drug, multiple viruses” That started with the advent of BSAAs.

BSAAs were created by scientists based on the idea which different viruses use similar pathways and host factors to replicate and spread within a cell. So one drug could potentially target many viruses at once.

Kainov and his team also explain the benefits of repurposing existing drugs over creating new ones to combat viral infections.

“Chemical synthesis steps, manufacturing processes, reliable protection, and pharmacokinetic properties are already available in[ animal models] and early phases of clinical development (phase 0, I, and IIa),” they write.

“Drug repurposing is a strategy for generating additional value from an existing drug by targeting diseases other than that for which it was originally intended.”

– Denis Kainov

The authors clarify that “a substantially higher likelihood of market success” and “a significantly reduced cost and timetable to clinical availability” are just some of the unique opportunities that drug repurposing provides for COVID-19 therapy.

Some antibiotics may fight COVID-19

The researchers that the initial 119 antiviral agents to a handful of potential candidates for SARS-CoV-2 infection treatment and prevention.

“For example, chloroquine and remdesivir have effectively prevented in vitro infection of the 2019-nCoV virus,” they write.

The following medications could also be used by scientists to help treat COVID-19:

  • teicoplanin
  • oritavancin
  • dalbavancin
  • monensin
  • emetine

“[T]eicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin, and monensin are approved antibiotics that have been shown to inhibit corona- and other viruses in the laboratory.”

– Denis Kainov

Doctors generally do not require the use of antibiotics to treat viruses. However, in this case the researchers looked for drugs that could be repurposed as antiviral agents.

Emetine is an antiprotozoan drug, the authors note.

“Importantly, clinical trials have recently begun on the efficacy of lopinavir, ritonavir, and remdesivir against[ SARS-CoV-2] infections,” they add.

The researchers summed up their results in an open access database. The database contains antiviral tables, heat maps, and word clouds which may help to treat COVID-19.

Kainov and his colleagues conclude, “BSAAs will have a global impact in the future by decreasing morbidity and mortality from infectious and other diseases, increasing the number of healthy years of life, improving the quality of life[ for people with the virus], and lowering patient care costs.”

For information on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus, this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page provides advice.


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