Researchers Unveil Top Drug Candidates For COVID-19 Treatment

A research team has moved forward in finding a drug or treatment for COVID-19. Six drug candidates appeared potentially effective to manage the spread of the disease. 

The study, published in the journal Nature, looked at more than 10,000 compounds and different drugs that are either already in the market or being tested in clinical trials. The is currently no targeted therapeutics or treatment options for COVID-19, according to Luke Guddat, a professor at University of Queensland. 

"In order to rapidly discover lead compounds for clinical use, we initiated a program of high-throughput drug screening, both in laboratories and also using the latest computer software to predict how different drugs bind to the virus," he said in a statement

The team focused on compounds that would work on the main COVID-19 virus enzyme called the main protease or Mpro. This enzyme plays an important role in managing the coronavirus’ ability to replicate in the body. 

"This makes it an attractive drug target for this virus, and as people don't naturally have this enzyme, compounds that target it are likely to have low toxicity," Guddat said. "We add the drugs directly to the enzyme or to cell cultures growing the virus and assess how much of each compound is required to stop the enzyme from working or to kill the virus."

Many of the drugs included in the study have already been in clinical trials. The list includes medications designed to prevent or treat health conditions like cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, stroke, atherosclerosis and cancer.

Among the thousands of drugs assessed in the lab, the researchers found six compounds were effective in inhibiting the Mpro enzyme. Guddat said the drugs have been tested before the COVID-19 pandemic, which could speed up the process of developing a treatment for the disease.

"Compounds that are already along the pipeline to drug discovery are preferred, as they can be further tested as antivirals at an accelerated rate compared to new drug leads that would have to go through this process from scratch," Guddat said. 

The researchers have shared the findings to other teams studying the novel coronavirus. Guddat said scientists across the world should now "take full advantage of this breakthrough."

He expressed confidence that with the growing efforts to study the coronavirus, the scientific community may discover more COVID-19 drug candidates in the near future.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Test Kit A medical staff displays a test kit to detect the novel coronavirus at a COVID-19 screening-drive, at the Amsterdam UMC in Amsterdam The Netherlands, on March 24, 2020. ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

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