A new study has found that a drug, which is being used to treat cancer for more than a decade, might be able to treat patients who have been diagnosed with COVID19. Scientists have said that this drug is called Pralatrexate. It is a chemotherapy medication, which has been developed to cure lymphomas, a type of cancer, which begins in the glands. Chinese scientists have said that this drug might be able to outperform Remdesivir, which is currently being used as a leading anti-viral drug for the treatment of COVID19 patients. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given a green signal to Pralatrexate in 2009 for treating patients who are dealing with a terminal disease despite its toxic nature. There are many adverse side effects, which are linked to Pralatrexate such as fatigue, nausea, and mucositis. Mucositis is a type of inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes, which layers the digestive tract. Scientists have said that they might be able to repurpose this drug to eliminate the side effects, which will be more effective in treating COVID19.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Haiping Zhang from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, China has said that it is important to identify drugs that can cure COVID19. He has said that approved drugs can be straight away tested in clinical trials. The study has shown that Pralatrexate might be able to reduce the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The drug is able to trigger stronger inhibitory activity as compared to Remdesivir within the same experimental conditions, said the expert. They have said that artificial intelligence can be a great help to identify such drugs. It will simulate how differently these drugs react with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which leads to COVID19 disease. Zhang and his teammates have merged many computational methods, which are able to imitate drug-virus reactions to support virtual screening of existing drugs.
Scientists have used a hybrid screening method to test 1906 existing drugs for their potency to reduce the multiplication of the virus. They have targeted a viral protein known as RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP). RdRP is an important protein present in the genomes of all RNA containing pathogens like the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The hybrid screening approach has been able to find out four effective drugs. Scientists have said that there have been two drugs Pralatrexate and Azithromycin, which have been able to reduce the replication of the virus effectively. Further lab tests have proved that Pralatrexate has been able to cut down the replication of the virus more strongly than Remdesivir. It shows that Pralatrexate can be repurposed for treating COVID19. However, this medicine can lead to adverse side effects as it is used for treating lymphoma. Therefore, it cannot be immediately used to treat COVID19 patients. The lead author of the study has said that the novel hybrid approach involves deep learning technologies and traditional imitation of molecular dynamics.
Scientists have published the findings of the study in the journal called PLOS Computational Biology. They are going to develop additional computational techniques to produce novel molecular formations, which can be developed into a new drug that can treat COVID19 patients. Scientists have been a little cynical about the efficiency of Remdesivir, which has been developed to treat Hepatitis C and later has been repurposed to treat Ebola as well. The drug has delivered poor outcomes during the treatment of Ebola in 2014. Later it has been tested for the treatment of COVID19 in the early days of the pandemic. Scientists have been testing different drugs, which have been developed to treat other issues and can be repurposed to treat COVID19 as well.