An orally-administered antiviral drug initially developed to treat influenza can significantly decrease novel coronavirus levels in hamsters, say researchers.

They said the drug is in the final stages of human trials, holding out the promise of a pill to combat Covid-19.

“In contrast to vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, we really don’t have many drugs that are effective against the virus. This is an exciting result that identifies MK-4482 as an additional antiviral against SARS-CoV-2,” said Michael Jarvis, associate professor of Virology and Immunology at the University of Plymouth.

“The drug, also called Molnupiravir, is in the final stages of human clinical trials in SARS-CoV-2 infected patients,” he added.

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US and the University of Plymouth in the UK found that MK-4482, also called Molnupiravir, was effective when provided up to 12 hours before or 12 hours after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

The drug can also decrease damage it causes to lungs, states the study conducted on hamsters.

Published in the journal Nature Communications on April 16, it suggests that treatment with MK-4482 could potentially mitigate high-risk exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and might be used to treat established SARS-CoV-2 infection alone or in combination with other agents.

There are currently no drugs suitable for high-risk exposure use against SARS-CoV-2, the researchers said.

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