Study of more than 12,000 drugs identifies 13 drugs that could slow the coronavirus

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Originally designed against cancer, diabetes or HIV

Reuse of known drugs could speed up deadlines for approval of new antiviral treatments

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One of the main avenues of research to develop effective treatments against coronavirus goes through reusing drugs designed against other diseases. Drugs that have already been approved or are in different stages of clinical research and that may be effective against SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes. The spread of the pandemic has led teams around the world to reexamine thousands of them and gauge their effectiveness against the new virus.

In a new analysis, published this Friday in Nature, a group of researchers from the USA and Hong Kong detail the results of the analysis of 12,000 compounds, among which they have selected the 100 best candidates for their potential to block viral replication. According to the authors, 13 of them are especially promising. “The development of a vaccine is likely to take at least 12 to 18 months,” they say in the text, “and the typical time frame for approval of a new antiviral treatment may exceed 10 years, but the reuse of known drugs. could significantly accelerate the deployment of new therapies“.

Among those promising candidates is a compound originally designed to fight the VIH (R 82913), a member of the diabetes family of drugs (DS-6930), one for osteoporosis (ONO 5334), a ball treatment (MDL 28170), and a drug called apilimod, developed to treat autoimmune disorders, such as Crohn’s disease. Three of them – ONO 5334, apilimod and MDL 28170 – were tested in cell cultures to assess their ability to slow the progression of SARS-CoV-2 in lung tissue. The authors claim that all three reduce the number of infected cells by 72%, 65%, and 85%, respectively..

On the other hand, previous works have already shown that apilimod can be administered safely in the doses necessary to achieve an antiviral effect in patients. In fact, many of the drugs identified in this study have already been tested in other clinical trials and some even include with the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This should speed up its evaluation for use in patients with Covid-19, according to the authors. “The vast majority are not going to work,” said Sumit Chanda, virologist at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Institute for Medical Discovery in La Jolla, California. “But actually we only need one or two“.

Drugs with a new life

This line of research, known as ‘drug reuse’, has a long history. In 1987, the first FDA-approved antiretroviral against HIV was a drug that It had originally been created to fight cancer, called zidovudine. In 2012, before the appearance of another disease caused by a coronavirus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), researchers from the University of Maryland responded by initiating a study like the one published now. Nature. They tested 290 drugs already approved by the authorities, and found that 27 of them blocked MERS from infecting cells. Some also proved effective against another coronavirus, SARS, which appeared in 2003.

Drugs whose operation has already been tested in people – even if it were against other viruses – are the ones that have the most possibilities of being used in the short term. An example is the antiviral remdesivir, created by Gilead Sciences to treat the ball (without success). This same month the biopharmaceutical company has assured that the tests that are being carried out show that remdesivir reduces the risk of death up to 62% in critical patients and states that it is associated with “significant clinical recovery”.

But while some researchers continue to analyze these promising candidates, other laboratories continue to work on tests on animals and people to check their level of safety before they can reach hospitals. “No one should try to self-medicate “With none of these drugs against Covid-19,” the authors stress, “they can have dangerous side effects and their efficacy has not yet been proven in clinical trials.”

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