MANHATTAN, KANSAS – A recent study by virologists at Kansas State University shows successful treatment after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

College of Veterinary Medicine researchers Yunjeong Kim and Kyeong-Ok “KC” Chang published the study in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the United States of America or PNAS. They found that animal models infected with SARS-CoV-2 and treated with a deuterated protease inhibitor significantly increased survival and decreased the viral load of the lungs.

The results suggest that post-infection treatment with inhibitors of proteases, which are essential for virus replication, could be an effective treatment against SARS-CoV-2. These protease inhibitors are a class of antiviral drugs that prevent virus replication by selectively binding to viral proteases and blocking the activation of proteins necessary for the production of infectious virus particles.

“We developed the protease inhibitor GC376 for the treatment of fatal coronavirus infection in cats, which is currently in commercial development as a new veterinary drug,” said Kim, Associate Professor of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology. “After COVID-19 emerged, many research groups reported that this inhibitor was also effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and many are currently pursuing protease inhibitor development as a treatment.”

Kim and Chang modified GC376 with a tool called deuteration to test its effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2.

“Treating SARS-CoV-2 infected mice with deuterated GC376 has significantly improved survival, lung virus replication and weight loss, demonstrating the effectiveness of the antiviral compound,” said Chang, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. “The results suggest that deuterated GC376 has potential for further development and that this deuteration method can be applied to other antiviral compounds to create potent inhibitors.”

The virologists are developing further improved inhibitors using various methods. Deuterated GC376 is currently being investigated for further potential development.

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The previous work by Kim and Chang continues the development through licensing agreements with industrial partners.

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