Oral antiviral drug Molnupiravir can block spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus in ferrets, study shows- Technology News, Firstpost

For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began in December last year, an antiviral oral drug has been developed that can stop the spread of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within 24 hours. The study was conducted by a group of researchers from the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University and funded by public health grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to Georgia State.

The results have been published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

MK-4482/EIDD-2801, better known as Molnupiravir, could be a game-changer in stopping community transmission of Covid-19 till the time a vaccine is approved and distributed among the masses. The study indicates that the antiviral could have a three-fold benefit, as per a statement from the University. Molnupiravir can stop the progress of a patient from mild to severe disease, shorten the infectious phase to ease the emotional and socioeconomic toll of isolation while putting an end to local outbreaks.

Molnupiravir was first discovered to be potent against influenza viruses but repurposed to be used against SARS-CoV-2 and tested on ferrets. Image: CDC/Unsplash

Dr Richard Plemper, Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State said, “We noted early on that MK-4482/EIDD-2801 has broad-spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and that treating infected animals by mouth with the drug lowers the amount of shed viral particles by several orders of magnitude, dramatically reducing transmission.”

“These properties made MK-4482/EIDD/2801 a powerful candidate for pharmacologic control of COVID-19,” he added.

The drug was first discovered to be potent against influenza viruses but repurposed to be used against SARS-CoV-2, followed by controlled tests on ferrets. Six ferrets were infected with the coronavirus, and three of them treated with Molnupiravir once they began shedding the virus.

Ferrets can be used as a ‘preclinical model’ for COVID-19 vaccine and therapies since their lung physiology is similar to that of human beings and researchers hope they will mimic aspects of COVID-19 in people, such as its spread, according to a report by Nature AsiaPreclinical models are animals that mimic a human condition, including the manifestation of behaviours and experiences that could be indicative of mental illness, also known as human psychopathology.

“We believe ferrets are a relevant transmission model because they readily spread SARS-CoV-2, but mostly do not develop severe disease, which closely resembles SARS-CoV-2 spread in young adults,” said Dr Robert Cox, a postdoctoral fellow in a statement.

After observing them over a four-day period, the researchers found that the infected ferrets treated with Molnupiravir did not spread the virus to uninfected ferrets living with them. On the other hand, ferrets that were infected but given a placebo, were shown to be infecting others near them.

Molnupiravir is now in the advanced phase, multi-centre, clinical II/III trials in human beings after successful completion of phase I safety trials. Data on those trails are still awaited.

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