Coronavirus antiviral drug shows promise in hamsters, enters human testing

Findings were published in the Nature Communications journal

An experimental antiviral treatment against the virus causing COVID-19 showed promise in animal studies and has entered human clinical trials, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The drug, MK-4482, was said to drop viral levels and reduce damage from the disease in the lungs of hamsters treated for infection, per an NIH release. The treatment works by preventing the virus from replicating, with benefits seen when the drug was given 12 hours before or 12 hours after infection. Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases published findings in the Nature Communications journal.

PFIZER STUDYING CORONAVIRUS ORAL ANTIVIRAL THERAPEUTIC

 "We show that MK-4482, when administered either starting at 12 h prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection, or even 12 h post-infection, significantly decreases viral lung loads and pathology, but does not affect shedding from the upper respiratory tract," the study reads. "These findings support the potential of MK-4482 as an orally administered drug for high-risk exposure and possibly therapeutic use in humans."

The study involved three groups of hamsters; a "pre-infection treatment group; a post-infection treatment group" and a control group. For the treatment groups, scientists gave the drug every 12 hours for three days. By the end, the treated animals in both groups revealed "significantly fewer lesions in the lungs" and a 100-fold drop in infectious virus in the lungs compared to the untreated control group.

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The team noted that a separate antiviral, remdesivir, has been granted FDA emergency approval, but this treatment can only be administered intravenously, "which makes its application to the control of high-risk exposure challenging," study authors wrote. 

"These data suggest that MK-4482 treatment potentially could mitigate high-risk exposures to SARS-CoV-2, and might be used to treat established SARS-CoV-2 infection alone or possibly in combination with other agents," reads the accompanying release from the NIH.