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SCIENTISTS IDENTIFY DRUG CANDIDATES AGAINST VIRUS

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Disaster Management

Why in news?

  • Nearly 70 drugs and experimental compounds may be effective in treating the coronavirus, a team of researchers reported on 22nd March 2020 night.
  • Some of the medications are already used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them to treat Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, may be faster than trying to invent a new antiviral from scratch, the scientists said.
  • Two dozen of the medicines are already under investigation. Also on the list: chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria.
  • To come up with the list, hundreds of researchers embarked on an unusual study of the genes of the coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2.

How does it work?

  • To infect a lung cell, the coronavirus must insert its genes, co-opting the cell’s own genetic machinery.
  • The cell begins to produce viral proteins, which are used to produce millions of new viruses.
  • Each of those viral proteins must be able to latch onto the necessary human proteins for the process to work.
  • In the new study, the scientists investigated 26 of the coronavirus’s 29 genes, which direct production of the viral proteins. The researchers found 332 human proteins targeted by the coronavirus.
  • Some viral proteins seemed to target just one human protein; other viral proteins are capable of targeting a dozen human cellular proteins.

Chloroquine

  • Chloroquine has been much in the news this past week, thanks to speculation about its use against the coronavirus.
  • Chloroquine kills the single-celled parasite that causes malaria.
  • Scientists have long known that it can also attach to a human cellular protein called the sigma-1 receptor. And that receptor is also the target of the virus.



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