Medications used to treat conjunctivitis and cystic fibrosis and a medical dye may guide future strategies for treatment of COVID-19 according to new Griffith University research published in mBio.
Co-led by Professor Michael Jennings and Associate Professor Thomas Haselhorst at the Institute for Glycomics, the researchers used a combination of computer-based and biophysical methods to search for drugs that block the binding of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) to cells. These drugs work by interacting with either the virus surface protein spike, or its cell receptor ACE2.
“As well as vaccines, potent drugs to treat COVID-19 are urgently needed,” said researcher Dr Christopher Day.
“Due to time and the cost of developing new drugs, our researchers have been pursuing drug repurposing – using drugs that have already been approved for other therapeutic purposes.”
The researchers identified and tested several drugs in vitro against SARS-CoV-2 infection, using a well-established cell model.
“Three of them – Evans blue (medical dye), sodium lifitegrast (conjunctivitis) and lumacaftor (cystic fibrosis) – were found to block virus infection of cells in culture and therefore may be further evaluated for repurposing as therapeutics or to guide the development of new drugs,” said co-author Dr Benjamin Bailly.
Work is about to commence to test the effectiveness of these drugs in advanced, ex vivo human respiratory cell models, facilitated by the Australian-German Fraunhofer International Consortium for Anti-Infective Research (iCAIR®) initiative.
“All identified drugs in this study have potential to provide blueprints for the development of new antiviral compounds for the treatment of COVID-19,” Dr Day said.
“The promising outcome of this research is thanks to significant funding received from the Queensland Government and the City of Gold Coast. Each provided $100,000 to the Australian node of iCAIR®’s COVID-19 project to develop treatments against SARS-CoV-2,” said co-author and Director Professor Mark von Itzstein AO.