Health Watch: New drug to fight coronavirus, flu being tested

Last year, 34,000 people died of the flu. This year's flu season isn't over, but it is on course to be one of the worst in a decade.

Add to that the fears surrounding the deadly coronavirus, which are keeping infectious disease specialists on high alert.

Now, a team of scientists has found a new drug that may stop influenza and coronavirus in their tracks.

"I couldn't move, and I had a high fever of over a hundred and that stayed the same for three days," Robert Cox, PhD, post-doctoral researcher at Georgia State University, said.

Cox knows first-hand how miserable the flu can be. Now he works on a Georgia State University research team testing a next-generation drug against the flu called EIDD 2801. The drug works by targeting an enzyme needed to replicate the flu virus in the body.

Cox said, "It looks so much like a regular nucleotide to the virus that it can't find a way to distinguish between it and other ones."

This allows the drug to sneak past the virus and stop it from replicating.

"So, it stops the application process so the virus cannot produce new genomes that then can be packaged into new viral particles," Richard Plemper, PhD, professor at Georgia State University, said.

Some antiviral drugs currently available on the market, such as Tamiflu, have been found to be ineffective against some strains of the influenza virus. But with tests on ferrets, this new drug proves to be effective against all strains.

"Even after extensive adaptation to our compound, we could not identify any resistance mutations," Plemper said.

And this drug may even be fast-tracked to combat the coronavirus, which has surpassed 1500 deaths so far.

"Colleagues of ours testing the same drug against coronavirus have actually shown this good activity," Plemper explained.

Plemper says human trials for this drug could start as early as Summer 2020. Just before the next flu season.

Contributors: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.
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