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This plant-based anti-viral drug could very well be the antidote to covid-19

Published on:3 February 2021, 19:02pm IST
Researchers have discovered a potent plant-based antiviral drug that can not only combat covid-19, but other respiratory illness causing viruses as well.
PTI
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covid-19 drugs
This antiviral drug can change the world. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Even though the number of covid-19 cases in India are at an all-time low, the threat of the novel coronavirus still looms large. From mutant covid variants to second and third waves—it doesn’t seem like the pandemic is going anywhere. And while the covid-19 vaccination drive is already on it’s way in many parts of the world, India included, there need to be more interventions to stop this virus in its tracks.

Thankfully though the medical community doesn’t seem to be resting when it comes to findings solutions. Researchers have now identified an antiviral drug which is highly effective against the covid-19 causing coronavirus, and could have major implications in how future disease outbreaks are managed.

The team, including researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK, found that the plant-derived antiviral, at small doses, triggers a highly effective broad-spectrum host-centred antiviral innate immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses, including covid-19.

This drug can target many viral infections and can be taken orally

Given that acute respiratory virus infections caused by different viruses are clinically indistinguishable, an effective broad-spectrum that can target different virus types at the same time could significantly improve clinical management, the researchers said.

According to the study, published in the journal Viruses, an antiviral of this type could potentially be made available for community use to control active infection and its spread.

The key features based on cell and animal studies, which make thapsigargin a promising antiviral are that it is effective against viral infection when used before or during active infection, the researchers said.

The drug is also able to prevent a virus from making new copies of itself in cells for at least 48 hours after a single 30-minute exposure, they said.

The researchers noted that thapsigargin is stable in acidic pH, as found in the stomach, and therefore can be taken orally.

covid-19 drugs
The antiviral drug can fight against the covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

They said the drug could, therefore, be administered without the need for injections or hospital admission.

It is not sensitive to virus resistance, and is at least several hundred-fold more effective than current antiviral options, according to the study.

“Whilst we are still at the early stages of research into this antiviral and its impact on how viruses such as covid-19 can be treated, these findings are hugely significant,” said Professor Kin-Chow Chang from the University of Nottingham.

“Given that future pandemics are likely to be of animal origin, where animal to human (zoonotic) and reverse zoonotic (human to animal) spread take place, a new generation of antivirals, such as thapsigargin, could play a key role in the control and treatment of important viral infections in both humans and animals,” Chang added.