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Repurposed anti-protozoal drug emetine effective against Covid: Indian scientists


New Delhi: Scientists at the Haryana-based National Centre for Veterinary Type Cultures of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have found that emetine, an anti-protozoal drug, can be repurposed to treat Covid-19.

Emetine is an FDA-approved drug which is used to treat amebiasis, a parasitic disease. Besides, it is also used to induce vomiting in the cases of poisoning. A team led by senior scientist Dr Naveen Kumar identified Emetine as one of the candidate drugs.

Dr Naveen told IANS, “In initial cell culture-based study, emetine treatment was shown to decrease 10,000-fold viral titers in vero cells. Further, scientists explored the molecular mechanism of action of emetine against SARS-CoV-2. It was demonstrated that emetine interferes with the synthesis of viral proteins without inducing any toxicity to the host cells.”

The researcher added, “The scientists discovered that in order to stop synthesizing viral proteins, emetine inhibits binding of a cellular protein required for the initiation of protein translation to the viral mRNA. In conclusion, antiviral efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 in the cell culture suggests that emetine could be repurposed to treat Covid-19.”

The scientists also evaluated antiviral efficacy of emetine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV, also known as chicken coronavirus) where emetine was found to completely protect chicken embryos against lethal challenge with IBV.

Besides, the Animal Science division of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, led by Deputy Director General Dr B.N. Tripathi opined that “the clinical trials of this drug should be carried out by the Indian drug companies.”

In June 2020, Dr Naveen was awarded a grant from the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) under the central government’s Department of Science and Technology to develop antiviral drugs against Covid-19.

Scientists at National Centre for Veterinary Type Cultures have a unique collection of over 100 small molecule chemical inhibitors that are known to target cellular kinases, phosphatases and epigenetic modifiers.

“Upon emergence of Covid-19, they evaluated their inhibitor library and identified emetine as one of the candidate drugs against Covid-19.” Dr Naveen added.

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