New treatment options for Covid-19

Researchers have succeeded in stopping the proliferation of coronavirus in an infected cell. A possible success in the therapy of patients.

Australian scientists have succeeded in stopping the replication of the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 in an infected cell using a method based on the gene scissors Crispr . This is the result of a study published on Tuesday in the scientific journal “Nature Communications”.

In the long term, this could enable better treatment of Covid-19 patients, according to the team led by Sharon Lewin of Australia’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

The scientists used a form of the gene scissors Crispr, which can be used to selectively cut out and replace parts of the genetic material. For their experiments under laboratory conditions, they used the enzyme Crispr/Cas13b. This binds specific RNA sequences of the coronavirus and knocks out the part the virus needs to replicate in the infected cell.

“Once the virus is detected, the Crispr enzyme is activated and cuts up the virus,” Lewin explained. According to her, the method works on parts of the virus “that are very stable and don’t change” as well as those “that are highly modifiable.” Thus, the technique also proved effective with viral variants such as the alpha mutant. So far, however, the method has only been tested under laboratory conditions. The team now hopes to test it on animals as well.

So far, treatment options for covid-19 are few and only partially effective. “We still need better treatments for people who are hospitalized for covid-19,” Lewin said. “Our current options here are limited and at best reduce the risk of death by 30 percent.”

While the use of Crispr technology in general medicine is likely “years, not months,” away, Lewin said. Still, it could prove useful in the fight against corona.

The ideal treatment, according to the researcher, would be a simple antiviral drug taken as soon as possible after a positive Corona test to prevent a severe course. Lewin says the researchers hope their findings will contribute to the development of such a low-cost, oral drug.

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