Recent outbreaks of viruses such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and previous deadly outbreaks of SARS have led to a push for research into how to treat and control the threat.
A group of scientists from across Europe have discovered a new chemical, K22, which can block these coronaviruses by stopping them from using host membranes for their own protective purposes.
Since the SARS epidemic in 2003, coronaviruses have been on the watch list for emerging pathogens and the ongoing outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) confirmed that they represent a serious threat.
No specific drugs exist against coronaviruses so far, but an article published the journal in PLOS Pathogens introduces a new inhibitor.
Searching for inhibitors of coronaviruses, an international team of scientists led by Edward Trybala, from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Volker Thiel, from the University of Berne, Switzerland, identified a compound called K22.
They initially discovered that K22 had antiviral activity against a relatively harmless virus which causes mild cold-like symptoms in humans.
Follow-up experiments showed the compound was effective against all other coronaviruses tested, including SARS and MERS.
The researchers also demonstrated efficient inhibition of virus in cells which line the human airways and are the natural port of entry for respiratory viruses.
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