According to a new study from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru, a drug used to treat asthma and allergies can bind to and block a critical protein produced by the virus SARS-CoV-2, reducing viral replication in human immune cells.
The drug, montelukast, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for more than 20 years and is typically prescribed to reduce inflammation caused by conditions such as asthma, hay fever, and hives.
The drug binds strongly to one end (‘C-terminal’) of a SARS-CoV-2 protein called Nsp1, which is one of the first viral proteins released inside human cells, according to the study published in eLife. This protein has the ability to bind to ribosomes – the protein-making machinery – within our immune cells and inhibit the synthesis of vital proteins required by the immune system, thereby weakening it. As a result, targeting Nsp1 could reduce the virus’s damage.
The team plans to work with chemists to see if they can modify the structure of the drug to make it more potent against SARS-CoV-2. They also intend to continue their search for similar drugs with potent antiviral activity.