Oral Antiviral Successfully Blocks SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

Antiviral MK-4482/EIDD-2801 clinical trials are sponsored by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck
ferret
Georgia (Precision Vaccinations)

A new study found treating a SARS-CoV-2 infection with a new antiviral drug, MK-4482/EIDD-2801 or Molnupiravir, completely suppresses virus transmission within 24 hours.

Researchers in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, led by Dr. Richard Plemper, Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State, originally discovered that the drug is potent against influenza viruses.

“This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug to rapidly block SARS-CoV-2  transmission,” said Dr. Plemper in a press statement issued on December 3, 2020.

MK-4482/EIDD-2801 could be game-changing.”

This drug is currently conducting Phase 2a/3 clinical trials, sponsored by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, LP.

Because the drug can be taken by mouth, treatment can be started early for a potentially 3-fold benefit: inhibit patients’ progress to severe disease, shorten the infectious phase to ease the emotional and the socioeconomic toll of prolonged patient isolation and rapidly silence local outbreaks, stated these researchers.

“We noted early on that MK-4482/EIDD-2801 has broad-spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and that treating infected animals by mouth with the drug lowers the amount of shed viral particles by several orders of magnitude, dramatically reducing transmission,” added Plemper.

In the study published in Nature Microbiology on December 3, 2020, Plemper’s team repurposed MK-4482/EIDD-2801 against SARS-CoV-2 and used a ferret model to test the effect of the drug on halting virus spread.

“We believe ferrets are a relevant transmission model because they readily spread SARS-CoV-2, but most do not develop severe disease, which closely resembles SARS-CoV-2 spread in young adults,” said Dr. Robert Cox, a postdoctoral fellow in the Plemper group and a co-lead author of the study.

For this study, the researchers infected ferrets with SARS-CoV-2 and initiated treatment with MK-4482/EIDD-2801 when the animals started to shed the coronavirus from the nose.

“When we co-housed those infected and then treated source animals with untreated contact ferrets in the same cage, none of the contacts became infected,” commented Josef Wolf, a doctoral student in the Plemper lab and co-lead author of the study. 

By comparison, all contacts of source ferrets that had received a placebo became infected.

If these ferret-based data translate to humans, COVID-19 patients treated with the drug could become non-infectious within 24 hours after the beginning of treatment, concluded these researchers.

The co-authors of the study include R.M. Cox, J.D. Wolf, and R.K. Plemper at Georgia State. The study was funded by public health service grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to Georgia State. No industry conflicts of interest were disclosed.

EIDD-2801 was invented at Drug Innovations at Emory, LLC, a not-for-profit biotechnology company wholly owned by Emory University. Since licensed by Ridgeback all funds used for the development of EIDD-2801 by Ridgeback have been provided by Wayne and Wendy Holman.

In animal studies of different coronaviruses  (SARS-CoV-1 and MERS), EIDD-2801 showed improved pulmonary function, decreased body-weight loss, and reduced the amount of virus in the lung.

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