Japanese scientists reuse antimalarial drug to fight Covid


Image source: AP

A woman receives an injection of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. (Representative image)

A team of scientists has identified an antimalarial drug, mefloquine, effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

The Tokyo University of Science team and others have mathematically modeled the effectiveness of mefloquine to predict its potential impact in the real world, if applied to treat Covid-19.

Shorten the “virus elimination time” to 6.1 days

They found that mefloquine could reduce the overall viral load in affected patients to less than 7% and shorten the “virus elimination time” by 6.1 days. Their findings are published in Frontiers in Microbiology.

To identify drugs with higher antiviral potency than existing antivirals, the team first looked at approved antiparasitic / antiprotozoal drugs.

They found that mefloquine had the highest anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity among the compounds tested. After testing it against other quinoline derivatives, such as hydrochloroquine, in a cell line mimicking the cellular environments of human lung cells, they found it to be better.

Mefloquine Easily Lowered Viral RNA Levels

“In our cellular tests, mefloquine readily reduced viral RNA levels when applied at the viral entry phase but showed no activity during virus-cell attachment. This shows that mefloquine is effective on entry of SARS-COV-2 into cells after attachment to the cell surface, ”said senior scientist Koichi Watashi of the university.

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To strengthen the antiviral activity of mefloquine, scientists have studied the possibility of combining it with a drug that inhibits the replication step of SARS-CoV-2: Nelfinavir.

Interestingly, they observed that the two drugs acted “synergistically” and that the combination of drugs exhibited greater antiviral activity than either alone, without being toxic to the cells of the cell lines themselves. .

While the study must be followed by clinical trials, “the world can hope that mefloquine becomes a drug used to effectively treat patients with Covid-19,” the researchers noted.

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