Researchers from the University of Nottingham have discovered a novel antiviral property of a drug that could have major implications in how future epidemics / pandemics—including COVID-19—are managed.
The study, published in Viruses, shows that thapsigargin is a promising broad spectrum antiviral, highly effective against COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2), a common cold coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the influenza A virus.
Given that acute respiratory virus infections caused by different viruses are clinically indistinguishable on presentation, an effective broad-spectrum that can target different virus types at the same time could significantly improve clinical management. An antiviral of this type could potentially be made available for community use to control active infection and its spread.
The study is a collaborative project led by Professor Kin-Chow Chang and experts at the University of Nottingham (Schools of Veterinary Medicine and Sciences, Biosciences, Pharmacy, Medicine, and Chemistry), and colleagues at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), China Agricultural University and the Pirbright Institute.
In this ground-breaking study, the team of experts found that the plant-derived antiviral, at small doses, triggers a highly effective broad-spectrum host-centred antiviral innate immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses—including COVID-19.
The key features based on cell and animal studies, which make thapsigargin a promising antiviral are that it is:
- effective against viral infection when used before or during active infection
- able to prevent a virus from making new copies of itself in cells for at least 48 hours after a single 30-minute exposure.
- stable in acidic pH, as found in the stomach, and therefore can be taken orally, so could be administered without the need for injections or hospital admission.
- not sensitive to virus resistance.
- at least several hundred-fold more effective than current antiviral