A drug used to treat a form of coronavirus in cats has reportedly been successful in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in tests in China.
The results come as the American developer of the drug, called GC376, applied for approval to begin clinical trials of the drug on humans in the United States.
The team in China, led by Professor Zhang Shuyang at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said that laboratory experiments and computer modelling suggest GC376 is a “relatively effective and safe” candidate as a drug for humans after it was used to treat Feline Enteric Coronavirus in cats.
In the paper, published on the bioRxiv server without having been peer-reviewed, the team says the drug binds to Mpro, a key enzyme in the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes COVID-19.
The enzyme is responsible for breaking larger proteins down into smaller amino acids which the virus then uses as building blocks when it makes copies of itself.
Without the enzyme, the virus cannot make these copies, and the team said that the drug can easily enter infected cells and inhibit viral production.
The researchers said only a low-concentration dose of the drug was needed for the full effect, and that GC376’s safety profile is “excellent”.
The drug itself was developed by biotech company Anivive Lifesciences, headquartered in Long Beach, California, and is usually used to treat kittens suffering from peritonitis, an infectious disease which is caused by a coronavirus – called Feline enteric coronavirus (FET) – which does not infect humans.
The developer have applied for emergency approval to begin clinical trials of the drug to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The founder of the company, Dylan Balsz, said they were looking forward to working with the FDA and moving towards a clinical trial.
Cats have reportedly been affected by the global pandemic, with Professor Chen Hualan of the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China finding that the novel coronavirus was particularly harmful for cats compared to other animals.
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