In what might be perceived as a breakthrough for the search of a COVID-19 vaccine, researchers in Canada believe a prodrug called GC376 targets an enzyme called Mpro in the novel coronavirus.
The researchers say the drug is a strong candidate for treating COVID-19 since it is already shown to be effective in animals.
“This drug is very likely to work in humans, so we’re encouraged that it will be an effective antiviral treatment for COVID-19 patients,” said Joanne Lemieux, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Alberta.
“Because this drug has already been used to treat cats with coronavirus, and it’s effective with little to no toxicity, it’s already passed those stages and this allows us to move forward,” she added.
Researchers noted that the drug interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate, and may help end the infection.
The prodrug is a compound that needs to be metabolized in the body before it becomes active. GC376 is converted to GC373.
The research team will soon launch a phase 1 clinical trial of the drug.
“Typically for a drug to go into clinical trials, it has to be confirmed in the lab and then tested in animal models,” Lemieux said.
They now plan to test modifications of the drug to make it an even better fit inside the virus.
Feline coronavirus FCoV is a common infection that affects domestic cats. It enters the cat’s body through the oral route and multiplies in the intestines.
The cat will then remove the virus through its feces where the virus may survive for s few weeks. Disinfectants destroy the feline coronavirus.
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Most cats that are infected are asymptomatic but may develop a mild form of diarrhea or lead to a life-threatening condition called feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). The latter only comes up when the FCov virus develops a mutant strain within the intestinal tract of the cat that can infect macrophages – an immune system and spread through the body.
FCoV is an alpha-coronavirus while SARS-Cov-2 is beta-coronavirus. The cat’s coronavirus does not cause infection in human but there have been some cases where scientists found SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in cats.