If there’s anything good about COVID-19, it’s that doctors become better at learning how to treat it. The disease killed over 1.8 million people worldwide, and we can expect the surge to slow down significantly considering that there are also vaccines on the market.
According to Daily Mail, a new scientific study provides us with extra hope that COVID-19 can be cured. A new drug used as a chemotherapy medication for cancer for more than ten years is the solution, as researchers led by Dr Haiping Zhang from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, China, are saying.
Pralatrexate is under the spotlight
Pralatrexate is the medication in question, and it’s reported to outperform remdesivir, the leading anti-COVID-19 drug, during the lab tests. Pralatrexate was originally created as a treatment for lymphomas, meaning tumours that originate in the glands.
The authors of the study wrote:
Identifying effective drugs that can treat Covid-19 is important and urgent, especially the approved drugs that can be immediately tested in clinical trials,
Our study discovered that pralatrexate is able to potently inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication with a stronger inhibitory activity than remdesivir within the same experimental conditions.
Pralatrexate was approved in 2009 as a treatment for patients who suffer from a terminal disease. However, the drug’s adverse effects are pretty unpleasant: nausea, fatigue, and mucositis.
To aid the virtual screening of the existing drugs, the scientists involved in the new research combined multiple computational techniques able to simulate drug-virus interactions.
By using this hybrid approach, they were able to screen 1,906 existing drugs for potential ability to inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2 while targeting a viral known as RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP).
The novel screening approach was able to identify four promising drugs, and they were tested against SARS-CoV-2 within lab experiments. Two of these drugs are pralatrexate and azithromycin, and they successfully inhibited replication of the virus. With further lab experiments, researchers concluded that pralatrexate inhibited viral replication more strongly than remdesivir.
Watch out for the side effects
Considering that pralatrexate is a chemotherapy drug, it can trigger very unpleasant side effects and should not be used for COVID-19 patients just yet. Further studies are needed. But even so, the findings of the new screening method could be useful for identifying other drugs that could be tweaked. Dr Zhang makes it clear by declaring:
We have demonstrated the value of our novel hybrid approach that combines deep-learning technologies with more traditional simulations of molecular dynamics.
The world sure needs as much medication as possible for COVID-19. The ongoing pandemic has infected a total of almost 84 million people worldwide. We’re glad that 59.4 million of the patients were recovered. The most affected countries are the USA, India, Brazil, Russia, France, and so on. In the US alone, over 20.4 million people got infected with the pandemic virus, while the death toll exceeds 354,000 souls. The most affected American states are California (almost 2.3 million cases and over 25,000 deaths), Texas (over 1.7 million cases and more than 28,000 deaths), Florida (more than 1.3 million cases and a death toll that exceeds 21,000 souls), and so on.
Vaccines also provide a lot of hope
COVID-19 vaccines likely represent the best weapon humanity currently has in the face of the pandemic. Such drugs were already approved in the US, the European Union, as well as in other countries. In the US alone, a number of over 2.8 million people already got vaccinated with the first shot of the vaccine. A second dose is injected after several weeks.
The researchers have published their work regarding the pralatrexate drug in PLOS Computational Biology.