Scientists around the world are still scrambling to find a treatment or cure for Covid-19. In fact, the situation is escalating everyday with Malaysia now reporting 428 cases at the time of writing. Meanwhile in Italy there are 21,157 cases at the time of writing. The United States is also preparing citizens for the next few days where they expect a big jump in numbers. Recently, German scientists identified a drug in Japan that could possibly treat Covid-19.
What is SARS-CoV-2?
Covid-19 is also known as SARS-CoV-2 as it is very similar to the SARS virus. As a refresher, the SARS outbreak happened between November 2002 and July 2003. It caused 8,098 cases and 774 deaths in 17 countries. The symptoms of SARS are similar to that of Covid-19 which are fever, cough, and sore throat.
The SARS virus binds itself to human cells through viral proteins called ‘spike’ proteins. These proteins have a spike on the surface of the virus particle. Through this, the virus can attach itself to a protein on the surface of a cell to infect it. First, the ‘spike’ protein must be primed by an enzyme called a protease to be effective.
Further research shows that SARS-CoV-2 is similar to the SARS virus in that it requires a ‘spike’ protein. In fact, the protein that the Covid-19 virus uses to enter and infect cells is called ACE2. Moreover, the virus also uses a protease (specifically called TMPRSS2) to complete the process.
German scientists have been researching on any possible compounds already available that can stop the protease from working. Without the protease, the SARS Coronavirus is unable to effectively infect a cell.
Camostat Mesylate is a Possible Drug
Thanks to previous work on SARS, they have a potential candidate called camostat mesylate. This drug has potential to stop SARS-CoV-2 from infecting cells and has done so in an experiment involving lung cells.
Camostat mesylate is currently in use in Japan to treat a number of non-infectious conditions. For example, chronic pancreatitis and postoperative reflux esophagitis are two such conditions.
However, while it is possible that the compound could work against Covid-19, it’s too early to tell. The main concern is that while it inhibits TMPRSS2 from activating the ‘spike’ protein, other proteases might be effective.
Furthermore, there needs to be tests and clinical trials on both animals and humans. Camostat mesylate has never been tested in humans with the Covid-19 virus.