MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

NIH screens existing drugs for compounds active against MERS-CoV

Researchers supported by the National Institute of Health recently identified compounds that show activity against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and a related SARS coronavirus.

There are currently no drugs that specifically target MERS-CoV, a virus first detected in humans in 2012 that has since caused 614 laboratory-confirmed infections, including 181 that were fatal. There has been an increase in the number of cases this spring, with the first U.S. cases reported in early May.

The National Institute of Health screened a set of 290 compounds already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or in advanced clinical development to see if they had potential against MERS-CoV. Of the group, 27 compounds showed promise at inhibiting the virus' ability to enter and infect cells.

The compounds belong to 13 different classes of pharmaceuticals, some of which are used to treat cancer or psychiatric conditions. Researchers are beginning to test the compounds on mice infected with MERS-CoV.

The investigators noted in their paper that it is likely that such an emerging virus outbreak may need to be treated with existing drugs, due to the development and manufacturing time for new products.

The research was published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and was a collaboration between investigators at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health, and Matthew B. Frieman, Ph. D., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

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