According to a February 13 report from the World Health Organization, the Wuhan coronavirus has stricken more than 46,000 people and has caused over 1,300 deaths since the first cases in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry have designed compounds that block the replication of similar coronaviruses, as well as other disease-causing viruses, in the lab. The compounds have not yet been tested in people.
The Wuhan coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV, is a close relative to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus that caused an outbreak in 2003 (SARS-CoV-1), as well as the Middle-East respiratory disease virus (MERS-CoV) that emerged in 2012. All of these viruses cause flu-like symptoms and, frequently, pneumonia. However, no effective treatments have been developed, in part because the relatively small number of cases have not warranted large expenditures by pharmaceutical companies. Hong Liu, Rolf Hilgenfeld and colleagues envisioned a possible solution in the form of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs that target all coronaviruses, as well as enteroviruses—some of which cause conditions like the common cold; hand, foot and mouth disease; and the “summer flu.” All of these viruses share a similar protein-cutting enzyme, called the “main protease” in coronaviruses and the “3C protease” in enteroviruses, that is essential for viral replication.
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