More effective antiviral treatments could be on the way after research from The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) sheds new light on the COVID-19 antiviral drug remdesivir, the only treatment of its kind currently approved in the U.S. for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The study was published online on January 28, 2021 in Molecular Cell. The article is titled “Remdesivir Is a Delayed Translocation Inhibitor of SARS CoV-2 Replication.” Remdesivir targets a part of the coronavirus that allows it to make copies of itself and spread through the body. For the first time, scientists identified a critical mechanism that the drug uses and unearthed information that drug companies can use to develop new and improved antivirals to take advantage of the same trick. According to co-author Kenneth Johnson, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry at UT-Austin, the finding could also lead to more potent drugs, meaning a patient could take less of a dose, see fewer side effects, and experience faster relief. "Right now, it's a five-day regimen of taking quite a bit of remdesivir," said Dr. Johnson. "That's inconvenient and comes with side effects. What if you could take just one pill and that was all you needed to do? That would make a huge difference in terms of the here and now."Study co-author David Taylor, PhD, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biosciences at UT-Austin, likens the trick the team identified to a paper jam in the virus's photocopier. Remdesivir shuts down this photocopier--called an RNA polymerase--by preventing copying of the virus's genetic code and its ability to churn out duplicates and spread through the body. The team detected where the drug manages to gum up the gears, grinding the machine to a halt. "We were able to identify the point where that paper jam happens," said Dr. Taylor. "We know now exactly what's creating this block.
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