The infection of COVID-19 still represents a major threat to global public health, causing the severe acute respiratory syndrome. As the spread of the virus persists, virologists are under a lot of pressure to find a proper treatment to prevent the worst outcomes of the coronavirus disease.
Virologists in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, Yunjeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok “KC” Chang, have conducted research on a possible treatment for COVID-19 and published their findings.
The title of the paper is “3C-like protease inhibitors block coronavirus replication in vitro and improve survival in MERS-CoV-infected mice.” It is found in the Aug. 3 issue of the prestigious medical journal Science Translational Medicine.
The study shows how small molecule protease inhibitors manifest potency against human coronaviruses. 3C-like proteases (3CLpro) are efficacious therapeutic targets because they have a vital contribution to coronavirus replication.
“This paper describes protease inhibitors targeting coronavirus 3CLpro, which is a well-known therapeutic target,” said Chang. He also explained that “Vaccine developments and treatments are the biggest targets in COVID-19 research, and treatment is really key.”
Their findings confirm how this series of optimized coronavirus 3CLpro inhibitors interrupted replication of the human coronaviruses MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 in both cultured cells and a mouse research model for MERS. The virologists suggest that these particular compounds should be evaluated further and taken into consideration as a potential treatment for human COVID-19 infection.
With the help of the National Institutes of Health research grants, Chang and Kim managed to develop antiviral drugs to treat MERS. They even extended their studies to other human viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and rhinoviruses.
“We would not have been able to come this far without important collaborations with our colleagues at other institutions,” Chang admits. Teams lead by Scott Lovell at the University of Kansas, Bill Groutas at Wichita State University, and Stanley Perlman at the University of Iowa participated as co-collaborators on the research. “Drs. Groutas, Perlman and Lovell brought decades of experience to our research team,” said Chang.
“The work that this group of collaborators has been doing on antivirals and inhibitors for SARS and MERS at K-State for a number of years has been vital to their ability to quickly pivot to emphasize research on SARS-CoV-2 virus and therapeutics,” praised Peter Kenneth Dorhout, Vice President for Research at Kansas State University.
Kim believes that “Getting things published right now is very important for the scientific community.” “I think we are adding valuable information to the antiviral field.”