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New oral drug Molnupiravir can block COVID-19 transmission within 24 hours, claim researchers

BusinessToday.In     December 8, 2020

Amidst ongoing study to find vaccine against COVID-19, researchers have discovered a new antiviral oral drug that can stop the spread of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within 24 hours. A study by researchers at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Georgia State University, has found antiviral drug Molnupiravir (MK-4482/EIDD-2801) could be a game-changer in a fight against the coronavirus.  The drug is currently in advanced Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials against COVID-19 infection.

Molnupiravir is an experimental antiviral drug which is orally active and was originally discovered for the treatment of influenza. The drug was discovered by the research team led by Dr. Richard Plemper, Professor at Georgia State University.  The drug is being developed by the US-based biotechnology firm Ridgeback Biotherapeutics in collaboration with pharmaceutical firm Merck.

"This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug to rapidly block SARS-CoV-2 transmission," said Plemper, adding that "MK-4482/EIDD-2801 could be game-changing." 

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"We noted early on that MK-4482/EIDD-2801 has broad-spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and that treating infected animals by mouth with the drug lowers the amount of shed viral particles by several orders of magnitude, dramatically reducing transmission," Plemper further stated.  

These properties made Molnupiravir a powerful candidate for pharmacologic control of COVID-19, he said.  

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In the study published in Nature Microbiology, Plemper's team repurposed Molnupiravir against COVID-19 and used a ferret model to test the effect of the drug on containing the spread of the virus.  

"We believe ferrets are a relevant transmission model because they readily spread SARS-CoV-2, but mostly do not develop severe disease, which closely resembles SARS-CoV-2 spread in young adults," said Dr. Robert Cox, a postdoctoral fellow in the Plemper group and a co-lead author of the study.  

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Since the drug can be taken by mouth, it may have potentially three-fold benefit such as inhibiting patients' progress to severe disease, shorten the infectious phase and break local outbreaks.

By Chitranjan Kumar

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