New Delhi: New research shows how remdesivir works to inhibit coronavirus. Remdesivir is the only treatment of its kind currently approved in the US for the coronavirus. The findings could lead to more effective antiviral treatments.
Remdesivir targets a part of the coronavirus that allows it to make copies of itself and spread through the body. For the first time, scientists identified a critical mechanism that the drug uses and unearthed information that drug companies can use to develop new and improved antivirals to take advantage of the same trick.
The finding could also lead to more potent drugs, meaning a patient could take less of a dose, see fewer side effects, and experience faster relief, says Kenneth Johnson, professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin and coauthor of the paper in Molecular Cell.
“Right now, it’s a five-day regimen of taking quite a bit of remdesivir,” says Johnson. “That’s inconvenient and comes with side effects. What if you could take just one pill and that was all you needed to do? That would make a huge difference in terms of the here and now.”
Co-author David Taylor, an assistant professor of molecular biosciences, likens the trick the team identified to a paper jam in the virus’s photocopier.
Remdesivir shuts down this photocopier —called an RNA polymerase—by preventing copying of the virus’s genetic code and its ability to churn out duplicates and spread through the body. The team detected where the drug manages to gum up the gears, grinding the machine to a halt.
“We were able to identify the point where that paper jam happens,” says Taylor. “We know now exactly what’s creating this block. So, if we want to make the blockage even worse, we could do so.”
The search for more potent antivirals could soon become more urgent as new strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, regularly emerge.