Drug made for cats may be a surprise weapon against COVID-19 in humans

An existing antiviral medication used to treat coronavirus infections in cats shows promise for treating COVID-19 infections in humans, according to researchers. Clinical trials evaluating the drug for this potential use will kick off soon, potentially offering doctors a new way to treat patients. Assuming it proves effective, the drug would work by inhibiting the virus's ability to replicate.

The respiratory disease COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus officially known as SARS-CoV-2. This virus replicates in infected patients' bodies, potentially causing them to develop an illness that is, in some people, very severe and deadly. Reducing the virus's ability to replicate will reduce the severity of the infection, helping the patient's immune system fight off the invading force.

According to the University of Alberta, two months of testing have demonstrated that a cat antiviral drug used to treat coronavirus in felines has proven 'effective at inhibiting' SARS-CoV-2. The university's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry professor of biochemistry Joanne Lemieux explained:

This drug is very likely to work in humans, so we're encouraged that it will be an effective antiviral treatment for COVID-19 patients.

Four labs at the university have worked to test the antiviral drug against SARS-CoV-2 and the findings were recently published by the notable journal Nature Communications. In its present form, the drug is suitable for entering clinical trials, according to the researchers, but additional modifications of it intended to enhance its abilities against COVID-19 are planned.

Lemieux went on to explain:

Typically for a drug to go into clinical trials, it has to be confirmed in the lab and then tested in animal models. Because this drug has already been used to treat cats with coronavirus, and it's effective with little to no toxicity, it's already passed those stages and this allows us to move forward.