Apr 01, 2020
[The New York Times]Scientists Identify 69 Drugs to Test Against the Coronavirus
Two dozen of the medicines are already under investigation. Also on the list: chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria.
A worker checking the production of chloroquine phosphate in China last month. There has been “anecdotal evidence” that chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, might work against the coronavirus.Credit...FeatureChina, via Associated Press
By Carl Zimmer
March 22, 2020
Nearly 70 drugs and experimental compounds may be effective in treating the coronavirus, a team of researchers reported on Sunday night.
Some of the medications are already used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them to treat Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, may be faster than trying to invent a new antiviral from scratch, the scientists said.
The list of drug candidates appeared in a study published on the web site bioRxiv. The researchers have submitted the paper to a journal for publication.
To come up with the list, hundreds of researchers embarked on an unusual study of the genes of the coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2.
To infect a lung cell, the coronavirus must insert its genes, co-opting the cell’s own genetic machinery. The cell begins to produce viral proteins, which are used to produce millions of new viruses.
Each of those viral proteins must be able to latch onto the necessary human proteins for the process to work.
In the new study, the scientists investigated 26 of the coronavirus’s 29 genes, which direct production of the viral proteins. The researchers found 332 human proteins targeted by the coronavirus.
Some viral proteins seemed to target just one human protein; other viral proteins are capable of targeting a dozen human cellular proteins.
The researchers sought drugs that also latch onto the human proteins that the coronavirus seems to need to enter and replicate in human cells. The team eventually identified 24 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat such seemingly unrelated diseases as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and hypertension.
On the list were such unexpected candidates as haloperidol, used to treat schizophrenia, and metformin, taken by people with Type 2 diabetes.
The investigators also found candidates among compounds that are now in clinical trials or that are the subject of early research. Intriguingly, some of the possible treatments are drugs used to attack parasites.
And the list includes antibiotics that kill bacteria by gumming up the cellular machinery they use to build proteins. But some of those drugs also attach to human proteins. The new study raises the possibility that this side effect might turn out to be an antiviral treatment.