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Potential antiviral treatment for COVID-19 identified

The team, including researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK, found that the plant-derived antiviral, at small doses, triggers a highly effective broad-spectrum host-centred antiviral innate immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

February 03, 2021 / 03:23 PM IST

Researchers have identified an antiviral drug which is highly effective against the COVID-19 causing coronavirus, and could have major implications in how future disease outbreaks are managed.

The team, including researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK, found that the plant-derived antiviral, at small doses, triggers a highly effective broad-spectrum host-centred antiviral innate immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

Given that acute respiratory virus infections caused by different viruses are clinically indistinguishable, an effective broad-spectrum that can target different virus types at the same time could significantly improve clinical management, the researchers said.

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According to the study, published in the journal Viruses, an antiviral of this type could potentially be made available for community use to control active infection and its spread.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The key features based on cell and animal studies, which make thapsigargin a promising antiviral are that it is effective against viral infection when used before or during active infection, the researchers said.

The drug is also able to prevent a virus from making new copies of itself in cells for at least 48 hours after a single 30-minute exposure, they said.

The researchers noted that thapsigargin is stable in acidic pH, as found in the stomach, and therefore can be taken orally.

They said the drug could, therefore, be administered without the need for injections or hospital admission.

It is not sensitive to virus resistance, and is at least several hundred-fold more effective than current antiviral options, according to the study.

"Whilst we are still at the early stages of research into this antiviral and its impact on how viruses such as COVID-19 can be treated, these findings are hugely significant," said Professor Kin-Chow Chang from the University of Nottingham.

"Given that future pandemics are likely to be of animal origin, where animal to human (zoonotic) and reverse zoonotic (human to animal) spread take place, a new generation of antivirals, such as thapsigargin, could play a key role in the control and treatment of important viral infections in both humans and animals," Chang added.

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PTI
first published: Feb 3, 2021 03:23 pm

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