Science and the Coronavirus: Natural origin of COVID-19 and repurposed drugs that could help fight the virus
Stanford scientists identified 69 existing FDA-approved drugs, drugs in clinical trials and/or preclinical compounds that could hold the key to begin treating COVID-19. Meanwhile, a genomic study irrefutably proves the natural origins of the novel coronavirus, putting an end to the conspiracy theories that it is a biological weapon once and for all.
Potential drugs that can be repurposed to treat SARS-CoV-2
An outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19 respiratory disease, has infected over 290,000 people since the end of 2019, killed over 12,000, and caused worldwide social and economic disruption. There are currently no antiviral drugs with proven efficacy nor are there vaccines for its prevention.
Unfortunately, the scientific community has little knowledge of the molecular details of the SARS-CoV-2 infection. To illuminate this, Stanford scientists cloned, tagged, and expressed 26 of the 29 viral proteins in human cells and identified the human proteins physically associated with each.
Among these, they identified 67 druggable human proteins or host factors targeted by 69 existing FDA-approved drugs, drugs in clinical trials and/or preclinical compounds, that they are currently evaluating for efficacy in live SARS-CoV-2 infection assays. Repurposed drugs represent the fastest and most immediate hope for a medical intervention against COVID-19.
Genomic study points to the natural origin of COVID-19
There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there that the new coronavirus causing the pandemic is a biological weapon that was engineered in a lab and deliberately released to make people sick. A new study debunks these claims by providing scientific evidence that this novel coronavirus arose naturally.
This is the result of genomic analyses conducted by an international research team, partly supported by the National Institutes of Health. In their study in the journal Nature Medicine, Kristian Andersen, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA; Robert Garry, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans; and their colleagues used sophisticated bioinformatics tools to compare publicly available genomic data from several coronaviruses, including the new one that causes COVID-19.
After a great deal of research (which you can read about here), researchers still don't have a precise answer as to the natural origin of the novel coronavirus. But they do offer two possible scenarios.
In the first scenario, as the new coronavirus evolved in its natural hosts, possibly bats or pangolins, its spike proteins mutated to bind to molecules similar in structure to the human ACE2 protein, thereby enabling it to infect human cells. This scenario seems to fit other recent outbreaks of coronavirus-caused disease in humans, such as SARS, which arose from cat-like civets; and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which arose from camels.
The second scenario is that the new coronavirus crossed from animals into humans before it became capable of causing human disease. Then, as a result of gradual evolutionary changes over years or perhaps decades, the virus eventually gained the ability to spread from human-to-human and cause serious, often life-threatening disease.
Either way, this study leaves little room to refute a natural origin for COVID-19.