Two anti-coronavirus drugs used in cats could help humans infected with the novel coronavirus, according to a preliminary study recently published in the journal Nature.
The drugs, the dipeptide-based protein inhibitors, called GC376 and GC373, are designed to treat cats with feline infectious peritonitis, a potentially fatal disease caused by another type of coronavirus, the feline enteric coronavirus (FCoV), according to a press release on the study. The statement explained that FCoV is a coronavirus that has similar traits to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“The main protease in the feline form of coronavirus and the virus associated with feline infectious peritonitis is highly homologous to the SARS-CoV2 protease associated with COVID-19”, Joanne Lemieux, professor in the department of biochemistry at the University of L Alberta, The success of treating cats with the drug may impact helping humans infected with COVID-19, the researcher said.
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“In cats, GC376 (the prodrug) converts to GC373 and was able to successfully treat cats without toxicity. Of the 20 cats tested, 19 recovered, ”Lemieux said in the statement.
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada believe the drug blocks an enzyme produced by the feline enteric coronavirus, preventing it from reproducing, thereby stopping feline infectious peritonitis. It could work the same way to fight the novel coronavirus in humans, they said.
“The studies found that GC376 and GC373 were effective in targeting the protease for both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers said in the study.
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“GC373 and GC376 are potent inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 replication in cell culture. They are good drug candidates for the treatment of human coronavirus infections because they have already been successful in animals, ”the authors said.
“It’s no surprise that a feline drug could be used to treat COVID-19, especially since this drug targets the virus’s main protease, which is highly conserved,” Lemieux said in the statement.
Lemieux said the results lay the foundation for human trials, adding that the researchers have received a grant to start trials in Canada. Researchers are also continuing clinical trials in the United States, according to a recent statement.