Human oral drug trials underway to test efficacy against Covid-19

Orally administered antiviral drug originally developed to treat influenza can significantly reduce levels of novel coronavirus in hamsters and is in final stages of human trials, promising a pill to fight Covid-19, say Researchers.

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States and the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom found that MK-4482, also known as Molnupiravir, was effective when given up to 12 hours before or 12 hours after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

The drug may also decrease the damage it causes to the lungs, the hamster study says.

Published in the journal Nature Communications on April 16, it suggests that treatment with MK-4482 could potentially alleviate high-risk exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and could be used to treat an established infection with SARS-CoV-2. alone or in combination with other agents.

There is currently no drug suitable for high-risk use against SARS-CoV-2, the researchers said.

“Unlike the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, we really don’t have a lot of effective drugs against the virus. This is an exciting result that identifies MK-4482 as an additional antiviral against SARS-CoV-2, ”said Michael Jarvis, associate professor of virology and immunology at the University of Plymouth and visiting researcher at NIH.

“The drug, also called Molnupiravir, is in the final stages of human clinical trials in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2,” he added.

If human data shows a similar antiviral effect, it may be suitable for use as an orally administered pill after exposure to the virus, in the same way that Tamiflu is used for influenza, the researchers said.

“I think this additional control measure could prove to be really useful in the current pandemic,” Jarvis added.

Although Remdesivir has already been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), it must be administered intravenously, making its use primarily limited to settings clinical studies in the later stages of the disease.

The research group developed a model last year that uses hamsters to mimic SARS-CoV-2 infection and mild illness in humans.

Current research involved three groups of hamsters – a pre-infectious treatment group, a post-infection treatment group, and an untreated control group.

Scientists administered MK-4482 orally to both treatment groups every 12 hours for three days.

Their study found that animals in each of the treatment groups had 100 times less infectious virus in their lungs than the control group.

Animals in both treatment groups also had significantly less damage or tissue damage in the lungs than the control group, according to the researchers.

The researchers noted that MK-4482 has been shown to inhibit the replication of other related human coronaviruses, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in mouse models.

In their previous research, the team determined in the lab the drug’s inhibitory effect on SARS-CoV-2 replication in human lung cells.

The treatment resulted in a significant decrease in SARS-CoV-2 replication compared to no drug control, they said.

The drug has also shown minimal cellular toxicity.

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