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Experimental SARS Treatment Can Also Fight MERS

May 19, 2014 04:53 PM EDT

An experimental compound that has been shown to effectively treat Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) may also work equally well in treating Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a new study suggests. This same drug has even proven effective at treating a hepatitis virus in mice (MHV), causing researchers to suspect that it could be used to target a broad spectrum of coronaviruses, despite subtle differences in how they present themselves.

According to a study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (AAC) back in 2012, researchers discovered that the compound identified as "SSYA10-001" can effectively block the spread of the SARS coronavirus in the body. Specifically, it inhibits the unwinding activity of the virus's double-stranded RNA, preventing it from replicating.

According to the authors of the study, "SSYA10-001 will be a valuable tool for studying other nidoviruses and also a candidate for further development as a SARS antiviral target."

Now, a number of those same researchers are suggesting that the compound is not only a viable SARS treatment, but that it could be used to develop treatments for the new and dangerous MERS coronavirus as well.

Despite the fact that World Health Organization (WHO) investigators have revealed that MERS-CoV is not nearly as contagious as its respiratory infection counterpart in Asia, SARS-CoV, they replicate in a remarkably similar fashion. According to a study recently published in AAC, this important physical factor allows both of the viruses to be stopped in the same way.

The study details how the experimental compound SSYA10-001 successfully prevented the replication of MERS-CoV in a lab setting, halting the spread of the virus, which theoretically would give the human body time to effectively fight off the initial infection without the threat of being overwhelmed by aggressive progression.

Interestingly, in live animal testing the compound also proved effective at treating mouse hepatitis virus, showing that the compound might prove effective at treating any virus which replicates in a similar manner.

"This study shows that it is possible to target multiple coronaviruses through broad-spectrum inhibitors," corresponding author Stefan Sarafianos, an author of the study, said in a press release. "This compound could serve as a lead for the development of effective broad-spectrum anti-coronavirus drugs."

Unfortunately, drug development using this compound is still in preliminary experimental stages. Recent studies have revealed other drugs, while potentially not as effective, are currently available and can help fight a rising number of coronavirus cases.

The study was published in AAC on May 19

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