New Drug Could Prevent COVID-19 and Future Variants

Scientists from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Berghofer have invented a drug that can both prevent and treat COVID-19, including all new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In their internationally peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Nature Communications, Australian medical researchers found that their drug can both prevent persistent inflammation as well as repair damaged lung tissue in preclinical trials.

Previously, the team discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2) receptor on the cell’s surface, triggering virus replication.

In this new discovery, epigeneticist and co-lead author Professor Sudha Rao said their drug has been found to reprogram the ACE-2 receptor into a lock on the cell surface that prevents new viruses from entering the cells.

“This type of drug has never been done before,” Ms. Rao told the Epoch Times.

“The drug is able to stop the virus from replicating because it prevents the machinery that the virus normally hijacks, but also prevents the key part with the virus that causes inflammation. It is able to completely remove that inflammation and allow the lungs to fully recover into full functional capacity.”

Epoch Times Photo
SARS-CoV-2 viruses bind to ACE-2 receptors on a human cell (Shutterstock)

She added that this breakthrough opens up massive possibilities for treating other common inflammatory diseases, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes in the kidneys, brain, and heart.

Their goal is to deliver the drug in the form of an injection, oral medication, or nasal spray.

Independent laboratories have demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of the drug, so their aim is to begin the first human clinical trials after sufficient funding is obtained.

Ms. Rao thanked the funding from philanthropists and the Queensland government, which enabled the research.

The researchers also attribute their progress to international collaborators, including NanoString Technologies, which worked with the team to conduct world-first digital spatial profiling experiments, and MetaGene, which assisted them with high-tech digital pathology analysis.

Potential Cross-Benefits: Anti-Malarial Drugs in the Treatment of COVID-19

Malaria infections use the same ACE-2 receptors in their development of disease, leading to the recommendation of anti-malarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and artemisinin for COVID-19.

While one mainly affects blood cells and the other primarily affects the lungs, both diseases are characterised by a strong inflammatory response early in the infection, according to a 2022 paper in Frontiers in Immunology.

Symptoms-wise, both infections can lead to fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, and muscle pain.

Additionally, the two diseases are also similar in that they both require iron to proliferate. Therefore, drugs that are capable of targeting iron storage or preventing proliferation may be effective in treating both malaria and COVID-19.

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Jessie Zhang is a reporter based in Sydney, Australia, covering news on health and science.
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