Much of the effort to develop remedies and vaccines to fight COVID-19 has centered around the spike protein that the culprit virus, SARS-CoV-2, uses to invade healthy cells. Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute believe they’ve found a way to block the spike protein’s ability to infect cells—and it involves a 78-year-old blood thinner.
The drug is heparin, which is widely used to treat and prevent blood clots. The RPI team discovered that SARS-CoV-2 binds tightly to heparin, making the drug a potential “decoy” that could serve as a way to neutralize the virus before it can infect healthy cells. They reported the finding (PDF) in the journal Antiviral Research.
The RPI researchers made the discovery by studying gene sequencing data for SARS-CoV-2 and recognizing certain characteristics of the spike protein they believed would make it likely to bind to heparin. They tested three variants of the drug, including a non-anticoagulant formulation, against the virus, using computational modeling to define how they bound to the pathogen.
Japan Approves Dexamethasone as Coronavirus Treatment
Japan’s health ministry has approved dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, as a second treatment of COVID-19 after a trial in Britain showed the drug reduced death rates in hospitalised patients.The ministry included dexamethasone as an option for treatment along with Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral drug remdesivir in a recent revision to its handbook. The revision was widely reported by Japanese media on Wednesday and was viewed by Reuters.
Shares of Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical Co, among those that produce the drug, gained as much as 6.5% in early trade. In results announced last month, a trial by researchers in the United Kingdom showed dexamethasone as the first drug to save lives of COVID-19 patients in what scientists said was a major breakthrough in the coronavirus pandemic.