An anti-tapeworm drug in a nasal spray format could prove useful in the fight against Covid 19 by blocking lung damage caused by the coronavirus. This was discovered by a group of scientists led by Mauro Jacket, professor of cardiovascular sciences at King’s College in London, who illustrates the new potential therapeutic approach in an interview with ‘La Repubblica’.
The research was born “in 2020 – he explains – Collaborating with the anatomopathologist Rossana Bussani of the University Hospital of Trieste, we realized that very particular structures appear in the lungs of patients who died from Covid: large aggregates of cells fused together, called This happens because the Spike protein of the virus “Sars-CoV-2,” to bind to the cells to be infected, activates a molecule that is on the surface of the cells, phosphatidylserine, which promotes fusion. The problem is that this compound then it also causes the cells to merge with each other, creating clusters that promote thrombosis that is seen in 90% of patients with severe forms of Covid. In these patients, clots are seen in both large and small pulmonary arteries “.
Scholars therefore wondered how to prevent this effect. “At King’s College we have collections with almost all drugs already approved for human use, about 3,800 – underlines Jacket – and we have robotic equipment that allows us to test them against any type of target, to find new uses. In this case we wanted identify drugs that, by blocking phosphatidylserine, prevented cell fusions typical of Covid. We found 3 “and” the most effective is niclosamide, a drug that is currently used for tapeworm infections. At this moment, the experimentation is underway clinic in 5 centers in India “.
“We are testing the drug on patients with more advanced forms of Covid – specifies the Jacket – This is because, if it were tested on patients in the initial phase of Covid, given that many of these patients recover spontaneously, it would be difficult to understand if the healing is due to drug or just to the immune system. But if the efficacy is confirmed in the more advanced phase, then it is assumed that it will work also for the first phases of the disease. The administration can be done by nasal spray “.
The preclinical results seem encouraging: “In Korea – reports the scientist – the pharmaceutical company Daewoong administered the drug to ferrets infected with Sars-CoV-2: after 3 days the virus had completely disappeared. Because in addition to preventing syncytia, the niclosamide also appears to effectively inhibit infection “.
“Among the experts there are those, such as the director of the Department of Virology at King’s College, claim that this drug is currently the best antiviral against Covid”. According to Jacket, “it could be very useful waiting for the first real specific drugs against the 2 enzymes characteristic of the virus to arrive at the end of the year”.