Chandigarh: Antiviral drugs that won’t fail against the mutated versions of influenza, COVID-19, and swine flu have for the first time been identified and tested at Mohali, Chandigarh, Ropar, and Bengaluru.
IISER (Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research), Imtech (Institute Of Microbial Technology), IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have published their findings in international journal Plos Pathogens. To make the antivirals work, their researchers used a new approach of targeting the host cells instead of attacking the viruses directly.
Conventional antiviral research targets the viruses with drugs called “direct-acting antivirals”. All the current FDA-approved antivirals in clinical use for COVID-19 and influenza are of this kind even when several studies have reported new virus strains that can dodge this medicine. As both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses evolve rapidly to become resistant to direct attacks. This makes new outbreaks hard to treat.
Dr Indranil Banerjee of the biological sciences department at IISER-Mohali said: “To address this issue of antiviral resistance, we used a new host-directed therapy, of attacking the cells that the viruses must enter to establish infection. There is no FDA-approved host-directed drug, so far, for COVID-19 or influenza. Since viruses lack locomotory activity, they exploit the host cell machinery to enter the cells. We found a class of compounds that blocks their ports of entry. We call these compounds diphenylurea derivatives or DPUDs.”
The research team identified 5 DPUDs capable of blocking both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus by 95 to 100 per cent. These can block the Wuhan, Delta, and Omicron strains of Covid and the H1N1 and H3N2 strains of swine flu completely without inducing any resistance in those viruses. The other contributors to the research are Dr Prabal Banerjee of IIT-Ropar, Dr Krishan Gopal of Imtech, and Dr Raghavan Varadarajan of IISc-Bengaluru.