Scientists test cat coronavirus drugs for treating COVID-19 in humans

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Scientists are looking into using two experimental drugs used for treating a fatal disease caused by a coronavirus that only infects cats to treat COVID-19 in humans, Science News reported citing preliminary research.

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Two drugs that can cure the cat disease called feline infectious peritonitis “might help treat people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus behind the pandemic.”

Researchers reportedly tested one of the drugs, called GC376, in lab experiments and found that it disabled a “key enzyme” that some coronaviruses such as the new coronavirus use to replicate. The second drug tested is an “antiviral cousin of remdesivir” which has been found to speed up the recovery of people infected with the new virus.

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“Both drugs have been highly effective in curing cats with feline infectious peritonitis, and usually without any other form of treatment,” Science News quoted Niels Pedersen, a veterinarian who studies the feline coronavirus at the University of California, Davis, as saying.

The cat coronavirus is similar to the new human coronavirus in that both spark a “deadly inflammatory reaction that can cause paralysis or fluid to accumulate in the lungs,” according to the report.

The GC376 drug has reportedly killed other human coronaviruses when tested in a test tube. Those viruses include SARS and the MERS coronavirus.

“Researchers including Jun Wang, a chemist who studies antiviral drug development at the University of Arizona in Tucson, have found that GC376 can stop the SARS-CoV-2 protease from working in a test tube,” Science News reported.

Other scientists including biochemist Joanne Lemieux and her colleagues reportedly had revealed that the drug “not only inhibits the SARS-CoV-2 enzyme in a test tube, but can also hinder viral replication in lab-grown monkey cells.”

In regard to the other drug GS-441524, there is “some evidence” that it could help people infected with COVID-19. Science News reported, citing a study in Cell Reports, that the drug can stop the replication of the virus in lab-grown monkey and human cells.

Gilead has begun preclinical studies to compare both drugs, Science News reported citing company spokesperson Chris Ridley.

The coronavirus COVID-19 disease has infected nearly 24 million people globally as of August 26 and it has killed over 820,000.


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