An experimental oral antiviral drug completely suppressed coronavirus transmission within 24 hours, according to a new study.
The drugs, called molnupiravir, prevent the virus from multiplying and spreading throughout the body.
The researchers found that the drug prevented the ferrets infected with COVID-19 from spreading the disease among themselves, but those who weren’t given the drug spread the disease.
The Georgia State University team says if the data can be transferred to humans, it means COVID-19 patients given the treatment could not become infectious within a day.
The researchers infected six ferrets with coronavirus and treated three of them with the experimental antiviral drug molnupiravir. They then took in two uninfected ferrets with one sick animal each
After eight days of daily testing, none of the ferrets caged (blue bar) with animals treated with the drug (blue bar) became ill
Within four days, all ferrets that were around sick animals (red line), with the placebo (black line), contracted COVID-19
“This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug to rapidly block SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” said Dr. Richard Plemper, professor at the Georgia State Institute of Biomedical Sciences.
‘[Molnupiravir] could be groundbreaking. ‘
Molnupiravir is an antiviral drug developed at Emory University in Atlanta by its drug innovation company Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE), licensed from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, a partner of Merck & Co.
It was originally intended to treat influenza and prevent the virus from making copies of itself by causing errors during viral RNA replication.
An April 2020 study found that molnupiravir can prevent and reduce severe lung damage in mice infected with coronavirus.
The drug is currently in Phase II / III clinical trials where it will be tested every 12 hours at three different doses in COVID-19 patients for five days. However, data is not expected to be available until at least May 2021.
For the new study, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, the team tested molnupiravir’s ability to stop viruses from spreading in ferrets.
“We believe that ferrets are a relevant transmission model because they spread SARS-CoV-2 easily, but usually do not develop a serious disease that is very similar to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in young adults,” said co-lead author Dr . Robert Cox. a postdoctoral fellow at Georgia State.
The researchers infected six ferrets with SARS-CoV-2 and treated three of them with the drug when they started clearing viruses from their noses.
The team next took 12 uninfected ferrets and two, each housed in a cage with one of the sick animals.
The ferrets were tested every day for eight days. None of the ferrets that were caged with treated animals developed the virus.
However, on the fourth day, all of the ferrets locked up with those who were not treated with the drug became sick.
As cases and deaths continue to rise in the US, containing the spread of the virus in the community will be key to containing the pandemic until vaccines are widespread.
“We noticed that early on [molnupiravir] has broad spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and the oral treatment of infected animals with the drug lowers the amount of rejected virus particles by several orders of magnitude, which drastically reduces transmission, ‘said Plemper.
‘Made these properties [molnupiravir] a strong candidate for pharmacological control of COVID-19. ‘