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HOLD THE PRESS! Scientists May Have Found a Way to Prevent Coronavirus Spread

A woman walks inside the premises of a hospital where a special ward has been set up for the coronavirus disease in Mumbai. (Reuters)

A woman walks inside the premises of a hospital where a special ward has been set up for the coronavirus disease in Mumbai. (Reuters)

A team of scientists have found that the SARS-CoV-2 depends on the binding of viral spike proteins to cellular receptors and on S protein priming by host cell proteases. In their study, they have demonstrated that there is indeed a way to use an inhibitor to break this chain.

Vishal Mathur
  • Last Updated: March 9, 2020, 10:44 AM IST
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Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the world with now 1,10,041 confirmed cases around the world, numbers true at the time of writing this, and will change by the time you read this. The Coronavirus, or COVID-19 virus, manifests itself as a respiratory disease. The initial symptoms include headache, fever, possibly even cough, body pain and fatigue and in some cases, shortness of breath. The typical symptoms that are attributed with seasonal flu, but that is till things become much worse. There is no treatment for the COVID-19 virus, only treatment for symptoms. There is also no vaccine for the Coronavirus, and scientists suggest that it is still at least a year and a half away. But now, there might be some hope. Scientists have discovered a possible way of stalling the spread of Coronavirus.

A team of scientists have found that the SARS-CoV-2 depends on the binding of viral spike proteins to cellular receptors and on S protein priming by host cell proteases. In their study, they have demonstrated that there is indeed a way to use an inhibitor to break this chain. “SARS-CoV-2 uses the SARS-CoV receptor, ACE2, for entry and the serine protease TMPRSS2 for S protein priming. A TMPRSS2 inhibitor approved for clinical use blocked entry and might constitute a treatment option,” say the researchers. They say that the spike (S) protein of coronaviruses facilitates viral entry into target cells, the entry depends on binding of the surface unit, S1, of the S protein to a cellular receptor, which facilitates viral attachment to the surface of target cells.

SARS-CoV-2 uses the SARS-CoV receptor, ACE2, for entry and the serine protease TMPRSS2 for S protein priming. A TMPRSS2 inhibitor approved for clinical use blocked entry and might constitute a treatment option

The researchers also say that antibody responses raised against SARS-S during infection or vaccination might offer some level of protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection. “Convalescent SARS patients exhibit a neutralizing antibody response directed against the viral S protein (Liu et al., 2006). We investigated whether such antibodies block SARS-2-S-driven entry. Four sera obtained from three convalescent SARS patients inhibited SARS-S- but not VSV-G-driven entry in a concentration dependent manner. In addition, these sera also reduced SARS-2-S-driven entry, although with lower efficiency as compared to SARS-S. Similarly, rabbit sera raised against the S1 subunit of SARS-S reduced both SARS-S-and SARS-2-S-driven entry with high efficiency and again inhibition of SARS-S-driven entry was more efficient.,” they say.

Antibody responses raised against SARS-S during infection or vaccination might offer some level of protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection

So, where do you find such a treatment. It turns out that a drug called camostat mesylate helps to inhibit TMPRSS2. The team discovered during tests that the drug can effectively block the entry of COVID-19 or Coronavirus virus into the lungs. The drug is approved in Japan as treatment for pancreatic inflammation. But for the specific use against COVID-19, the camostat mesylate drugs will still need detailed clinical testing before it may be deployed.

A drug called camostat mesylate helps to inhibit TMPRSS2. It is approved in Japan for treatment of other illnesses

The research (you can read more here) includes scientists from the Infection Biology Unit, German Primate Center – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, Göttingen, Germany, Faculty of Biology and Psychology, University Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, Martsinovsky Institute of Medical Parasitology, Tropical and Vector Borne Diseases, Sechenov University, Moscow, Russia, Institute of Virology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany and Institute for Biomechanics, Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria.


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