Researchers, by using state-of-the-art computer simulations, have identified a pre-existing drug that could fast-track a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study published in the journal Science Advances, the research team from the University of Chicago in the US focused on finding a weakness in the COVID-19 virus to target.
The researchers chose its main protease: Mpro- a key coronavirus enzyme that plays a central role in the virus’ life cycle.
“Mpro facilitates the virus’ ability to transcribe its RNA and replicate its genome within the host cell,” the researchers said.
Further, the researchers found that the pharmaceutical drug that shows promise as a weapon against Mpro is Ebselen.
Ebselen is a chemical compound with anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, bactericidal, and cell-protective properties.
It is used to treat multiple diseases, including bipolar disorders and hearing loss.
The researchers have claimed that several clinical trials have proven Ebselen’s safety for using it in humans.
The study further stated that the research team set out to develop detailed models of the enzyme and the drug.
Using those models and sophisticated supercomputer simulations, the researchers discovered that the small Ebselen molecule is able to decrease Mpro’s activity in two different ways.
“The finding was important because it helped explain Ebselen’s potential efficacy as a repurposed drug,” the researchers said.
“Moreover, it revealed a new vulnerability in the virus that was previously not known,” they added.
The discovery of two binding sites looks promising for Ebselen to be a new drug lead for the design and development of new Mpro inhibitors and COVID-19 treatment.
The team, however, added that much work is yet to be done.