Tartu and Norway researchers identified potential inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2

Coronavirus testing in progress.
Coronavirus testing in progress. Source: Pixabay

As a result of recent research, researchers of the University of Tartu and Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have identified six compounds with an inhibiting effect on SARS-CoV-2. Researchers believe these antiviral compounds can benefit the whole world, as they can help the healthcare systems and the society to be better prepared for possible viral outbreaks in the future.

The number of people infected with coronavirus increases day by day, with currently more than 4,5 million cases reported worldwide. Developing vaccines and drugs is time‑consuming and costly, but viral outbreaks require a rapid and effective response. This can be done by potential antiviral compounds, the University of Tartu writes in a press release.

Antiviral compounds are drugs that are used for treating viral infections by inhibiting the proliferation of the virus in the host body but remain safe for the human organism. Researchers of the University of Tartu and NTNU have identified six compounds with an in vitro inhibiting effect on SARS-CoV-2 infection. One of the identified compounds is nelfinavir which has so far been used as an oral drug inhibiting HIV.

"We are applying the principle of drug repurposing, meaning that we aim to treat coronavirus infection by using compounds originally intended for another disease. By this, we can generate additional value for drugs already on the market. This gives them significant advantages over the development of new vaccines and drugs," explained Denis Kainov, Senior Research Fellow in Virology of the University of Tartu and Associate Professor of NTNU.

"The development of new solutions is very expensive and time-consuming, but this process has already been completed for the compounds we have identified. An additional significant advantage of antiviral compounds is the fact that we can use them both for the treatment and prevention of viral diseases," Kainov added.

According to the researchers, these coronavirus inhibitors can benefit the whole world, as they provide a better response both to the current pandemic and to future viral outbreaks. They also help to better manage pandemics, considering the threat of emerging drug‑resistant strains. The researchers are also assembling a toolbox of antiviral compounds for the rapid and safe response to future viral outbreaks. This could reduce the infection rate and the number of deaths and also the costs of the healthcare system.


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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