[COVID-19 Update]: Pre-existing Drug Shows Promising Results; Wastewater Monitoring to Track COVID-19; Vaccine Update

Researchers have found a pre-existing drug that can potentially kill the COVID-19 virus. Additonally, scientists are also studying different techniques, including wastewater monitoring, to track the spread of the virus.

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The perils of the pandemic are still lingering on the world. COVID-19 has affected at least 22,306,538 people at the time of writing. Of this, at least 784,353 have succumbed to the virus. Amid this, scientists are exploring different ways to treat the virus at the earliest. 

Pre-Existing Drug Shows Capability To Fight COVID-19 

Scientists from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), University of Chicago, have used cutting-edge supercomputer simulations, which helped them identify a pre-existing drug to treat the novel coronavirus. 

The study has been published in Journal Science Advances in a paper titled “Molecular Characterization of Ebselen Binding Activity to SARS CoV 2 Main 4 Protease”. 

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Scientists have been using supercomputers to screen through the thousands and thousands of pre-existing compounds for the treatment of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Initially, the researchers concentrated on finding a vulnerability in the virus. They found that the main protease, MPro, is an attractive target for treatment with antiviral drugs. MPro is a major enzyme that is essential to the life cycle of the virus. It lets the virus transcribe the RNA to replicate the genome in the host cell. 

The team discovered that a pre-existing drug – Ebselen could be a promising antiviral drug against Mpro. Several clinical trials have demonstrated its efficacy for human use. 

Professor Juan de Pablo and his team discovered that Ebselen could be used to inhibit MPro’s activity in two ways. He stated: 

In addition to binding at the catalytic site of the enzyme, Ebselen also binds strongly to a distant site, which interferes with the enzyme’s catalytic function by relying on a mechanism in which information is carried from one region of a large molecule to another region far away from it through subtle structural reorganizations.

This is an important discovery and will perhaps help scientists repurpose the drug for use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The team will release a detailed report of the RBD/ACE2 study to show promising strategies that will interfere with the binding of the virus to the host cells. 

Wastewater Monitoring to Track COVID-19

Currently, nasal swabs or saliva extracts are used to test the virus. However, scientists have determined a new technique to keep a check on the spread of the virus – wastewater monitoring. Albeit, this is not a new technique as it has already been used in the past for detecting the non-enveloped virus. 

The study has been co-authored by Professor Masaaki Kitajima from the Water Quality Control Engineering Laboratory, Hokkaido University, and is published in Science of the Total Environment. In this research, scientists have reported a fast, economical approach to track the spread of the virus through untreated water.

To test the efficacy of the approach, scientists are testing the Murine hepatitis virus (MHV), which is closely related to the COVID-19 virus, except it does not affect humans. 

The scientists introduced MHV in untreated water. They then tried to recover and concentrate these samples using seven different approaches. The recovered quantity of MHV was established by a reverse transcription-quantitative PCR. The recovery was maximum when the sample was treated with magnesium chloride. The second best recovery was done by a similar approach, but this time without magnesium chloride. These methods include initial processing time of only one hour and can work with readily available low-cost reagents. 

The next step is to examine the approach in testing the samples taken from the pandemic’s predominant areas. This is to show that the technique can be used against SARS-CoV-2 and to show that the test is effective on samples from outside the laboratory. 

Lead scientists in the COVID-19 research

A research team member, Professor Masaaki Kitajima stated:

I hope this research contributes to the establishment of a standard protocol for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and this, in turn, accelerates investigations to enhance our understanding of COVID-19 epidemiology through wastewater surveillance.

Vaccine Update

India Asks Vaccine Manufacturers to Indicate Pricing

Earlier this week, India’s vaccine expert group met with the leading manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine to discuss vaccine prospects. Dr. V.K. Paul, who heads the group stated:

We requested the vaccine manufacturers to indicate what possible prices could be. Pricing is very complex as some of these vaccines are at an early stage. We have some insights into what the price range could be, but this is an information that will be refined as we move along.

The board also asked the manufacturers to provide details pertaining to their production capacity and how it is expected to change over time. 

Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine

Russia released a promo video created by the Russian Direct Investment Fund – the body that has funded the project that shows how the Russian vaccine – Sputnik V – will wipe off the novel coronavirus from the face of Earth. 

On 16th August, TASS reported that the third phase of research of the Sputnik V vaccine will commence in 7-10 days.


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