K-State research may lead to COVID treatment breakthrough

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 4:33 PM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Research done by virologists at Kansas State University on SARS-CoV-2 could lead to a breakthrough in the treatment of COVID-19.

Kansas State University says a recent study done by its virologists shows successful postinfection treatment for the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2.

According to K-State, College of Veterinary Medicine researchers Yunjeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok “KC” Chang published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. It said they found that animal models infected with the virus and treated with a deuterated protease inhibitor had significantly increased survival and decreased lung viral load.

K-State said the results suggest that treatment after infection with inhibitors of proteases that are crucial for viral replication could be an effective treatment against COVID-19. It said the protease inhibitors are a class of antiviral drugs that prevent viral replication by selectively binding to viral proteases and blocking the activation of proteins needed for the production of infectious viral particles.

“We developed the protease inhibitor GC376 for treating a fatal coronavirus infection in cats, which is now under commercial development as an investigational new animal drug,” said Kim, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. “After COVID-19 emerged, many research groups reported that this inhibitor is also effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and many are currently pursuing the development of these protease inhibitors as a treatment.”

According to K-State, Kim and Chang modified GC376 using a tool called deuteration to further increase how effective it is against COVID-19. It said the work showed deuterated GC376 works better for SARS-CoV-2 in lab tests.

“Treating SARS-CoV-2-infected mice with deuterated GC376 significantly improved survival, viral replication in lungs and weight losses, which shows the efficacy of the antiviral compound,” said Chang, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. “The results suggest deuterated GC376 has a potential for further development, and this deuteration method can be utilized to other antiviral compounds to generate more potent inhibitors.”

K-State said the virologists continue to develop improved inhibitors using various methods. It said deuterated GC376 is currently being looked at for further potential development.

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