COVID-19 treatment updates: Antiviral drug Molnupiravir can block COVID-19 transmission within 24 hours

In early animal testing, Molnupiravir was found to prevent virus carriers from developing severe symptoms and transmitting the disease.
December 09, 2020 | 17:36
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Molnupiravir has a potential in treating COVID-19 (Photo: Unsplash)
Molnupiravir has a potential in treating COVID-19 (Photo: Unsplash)

In early tests on animals, the new antiviral drug MK-4482 / EIDD-2801 or Molnupiravir, has managed to suppress "completely" the transmission of the coronavirus in just 24 hours, according to studies by the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of Georgia State University.

"This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug that quickly blocks the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, so it could be a game changer," the researchers explained in the work published in the journal Nature Microbiology on December 3.

More details about Molnupiravir

As reported by Indian Express, Molnupiravir, or MK-4482/EIDD-2801, is taken orally. Molnupiravir is being developed by the biotechnology firm Ridgeback Biotherapeutics in collaboration with pharmaceutical firm Merck. Molnupiravir was originally designed to treat the flu and prevent the virus from making copies of itself, creating errors during viral RNA replication.

The research team repurposed MK-4482/EIDD-2801 against SARS-CoV-2 and tested it on ferrets.

The tests were carried out on ferrets and it was observed that they presented a reduction in the amount of viral particles. Then those ferrets were put with others that had not been treated. None of the ferrets in the second group became infected with COVID-19.

Why ferrets?

Ferrets are a popular model for influenza and other respiratory infections because their lung physiology is similar to humans and researchers hope they will mimic aspects of Covid-19 in people such as its spread.

"We believe that ferrets are a relevant transmission model because they easily spread SARS-CoV-2, but for the most part they do not develop a serious disease, which is very similar to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in young adults," he said. Dr. Robert Cox, a postdoctoral fellow in the Plemper group and co-lead author of the study.

We observed early on that MK-4482 / EIDD-2801 has broad spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and that oral treatment of infected animals with the drug reduces the amount of viral particles spread by several orders of magnitude, drastically reducing transmission. These properties made MK-4482 / EIDD / 2801 a powerful candidate for the pharmacological control of Covid-19 ”, the report adds.

According to the researchers, Molnupiravir is the first oral anti-viral drug to quickly block (Photo: Indian Express)
According to the researchers, Molnupiravir is the first oral anti-viral drug to quickly block (Photo: Indian Express)

Molnupiravir's treatment potential on COVID-19 patients

According to Entrepreneur, if this ferret-based data is translated into humans, Covid-19 patients treated with the drug could become non-infectious within 24 hours of starting treatment.

The drug can be taken orally, and treatment can be started early for a triple potential benefit: inhibiting patients' progress to severe disease, shortening the infectious phase to alleviate the emotional and socioeconomic cost of prolonged patient isolation, and containing quickly local outbreaks.

Dr Shekhar Mande, Director General CSIR explained that the drug is basically an inhibitor of RNA in cells and does not allow it to make copies of the virus. “Other drugs also do something similar but it is exciting to see that transmission being blocked in ferrets.

Molnupiravir is currently in advanced phase II / III clinical trials. It is being tested in three different doses every 12 hours for five days in patients with SARS-CoV-2.

The drug basically stops replication of the copies of the virus’s RNA in the cell,” said Dr Shekhar Mande, Director General Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. “The drug is like any other anti-flu drug and was on our list of drugs to go into clinical trials. There are several promising drugs and they are under evaluation… We have also in principle decided to go ahead with the clinical trials for testing Molnupiravir in humans and will apply to the regulator for approval.

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