Researchers identify new drug to treat COVID patients

LONDON, OCT 31 (IANS) | Publish Date: 10/31/2020 12:40:01 PM IST

In the continuing fight against the novel Coronavirus, researchers have now identified a drug with the potential to provide treatment for Covid-19 close to a year after it turned into a pandemic.

The study, published in the journal Cells, found that the approved protease inhibitor aprotinin displayed activity against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in concentrations that are achieved in patients. According to the researchers, aprotinin aerosols are approved in Russia for the treatment of influenza and could be readily tested for the treatment of Covid-19.

Aprotinin inhibits the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into host cells and may compensate for the loss of host cell protease inhibitors that are downregulated upon SARS-CoV-2 infection. “The aprotinin aerosol has been reported to be tolerated extremely well in influenza patients. Hence, it may have a particular potential to prevent severe Covid-19 disease when applied early after diagnosis,” said study author Martin Michaelis from the University of Kent in the UK.

“Aprotinin has previously been shown to inhibit TMPRSS2 gene and has been suggested as a treatment option for influenza viruses and coronaviruses. Herein, we investigated the effects of aprotinin against SARS-CoV-2,” Michaelis added. The findings showed that aprotinin displayed anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity in different cell types (Caco2, Calu-3, and primary bronchial epithelial cell air-liquid interface cultures) and against four virus isolates.

“An approved aprotinin aerosol may have the potential for the early local control of SARS-CoV-2 replication and the prevention of Covid-19 progression to a severe, systemic disease,” the study authors noted.

Covid-19 remains public health emergency: WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee on COVID-19 unanimously agreed that the ongoing global pandemic still constituted a public health emergency of international concern.

The announcement came after the conclusion of a two-day meeting on Friday, which was convened by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus under the International Health Regulations to review the pandemic situation and progress made on the temporary recommendations, reports Xinhua news agency. The pandemic continued to require a coordinated international response, according to the committee.

It provided concrete and targeted advice for WHO and countries to focus on in the coming months, including evidence-informed, risk-based and coherent measures in relation to international traffic; surveillance and contact tracing efforts; maintaining essential health services including mental health services; and preparing plans for future COVID vaccines. The committee also urged countries to avoid politicisation of the pandemic response.

“Governments should focus on tackling the virus and avoid politicisation,” Tedros said at a press briefing after the meeting. He called on countries to keep investing in the health system and workforce, and improving testing, tracing and treatment of all cases.

Meanwhile, Tedros announced that a group of international experts had their first virtual meeting with their Chinese counterparts, as part of the future WHO-led international mission to Beijing to identify the zoonotic origin of the novel coronavirus, which originated last December in Wuhan city. According to Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, that virtual meeting helps the international team of experts and their Chinese colleagues to familiarise with each other and exchange information on what has been achieved so far in identifying the animal source of COVID-19.

He emphasised that scientists need the best answers to the origin, “not just any answer that satisfies political needs of speed and investigation” .

Ryan suggested that finding the animal source may take quite a while just as previous investigations regarding the MERS and SARS viruses.

The grim announcement comes as the overall number of global coronavirus cases has topped 45.4 million, while the deaths have surged to 1,187,020, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Saturday morning, the total caseload and death toll stood at 45,477,552 and 1,187,023, respectively, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

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