SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and caused a global pandemic, has infected over 406 millionpeople worldwide and has led to the death of 5.79 million individuals. And while over 10 billion doses of the COVID vaccines have been administered, and are live saving, new cases of COVID-19 are still rampant. Currently, there are 2.5 million reported new confirmed cases per day worldwide. Because of this, effective treatments for the COVID-19 disease are necessary and important for public health. A new article, recently accepted for publication in nature, details a novel combination of drugs that are effective in combating SARS-CoV-2 viral infections.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland screened approximately 18,000 drugs from three separate drug repurposing libraries. Using high-throughput screening, the researchers were able to identify 122 unique drugs that could potentially inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection. Once identify, the researchers validated these drugs in vitro in human lungs cells, and in vivo using experimental mice.
The researchers identified a potent combination of drugs that could be utilized to combat the virus. Among these drugs, were nucleoside analogues, which are used clinically as antiviral medications. These drugs work by preventing cell division and RNA synthesis. In addition to the nucleoside analogues, the research showed that combining these analogues with a pyrimidine biosynthesis inhibitor, which are commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis, led to a dramatic reduction of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Importantly, the drugs used in the most effective drug combination – combining the pyrimidine biosynthesis inhibitor, brequinar, with the nucleoside analogues, remdesivir or molnupiravir – are all already approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, the combination of drugs could be rapidly repurposed and used to treat COVID-19 in the very near future. Dr. Sara Cherry, the lead author on the study, said, “identifying combinations of antivirals is really important, not only because doing so may increase the drugs’ potency against, the coronavirus, but combining drugs also reduces the risk of resistance.” The next step in their research is for the drug combinations to be tested in clinical trials with the hope that these new, potent treatments can help alter the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.