Wuhan virus: Chinese researchers select 30 drug candidates to fight novel coronavirus

Medical staff work at Wuhan Jinyintan hospital, which specialises in the treatment of severe new coronavirus infected patients transferred from various hospitals in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, on Jan 26, 2020.
Medical staff work at Wuhan Jinyintan hospital, which specialises in the treatment of severe new coronavirus infected patients transferred from various hospitals in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, on Jan 26, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (XINHUA) - Chinese researchers have selected 30 existing drugs, biologically active natural products and traditional Chinese medicines which may have therapeutic effects on the novel coronavirus for further tests, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

A joint research team of scientists from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica under the CAS and ShanghaiTech University is searching for drugs to combat the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which has claimed 106 lives and infected 4,515 people nationwide in China as of the end of Monday (Jan 27).

Researchers from ShanghaiTech University, led by Rao Zihe and Yang Haitao, revealed Sunday the high-resolution crystal structure of the viral main proteinase (Mpro) of the novel coronavirus.

The Mpro, which controls the activities of the coronavirus replication complex, is an attractive target for therapy.

Based on the 2019-nCoV Mpro study, the joint team screened the marketed drugs as well as databases for high potency compounds and for compounds from medicinal plants, and selected 30 candidates through a combination of virtual screenings and enzymology tests.

The candidates include 12 anti-HIV drugs like Indinavir, Saquinavir, Lopinavir, Carfilzomib and ritonavir, two anti-respiratory syncytial virus drugs, an anti-schizophrenia drug, as well as an immunosuppressant.

Some traditional Chinese medicines that may contain effective components against 2019-nCoV, such as Polygonum cuspidatum, are also on the list.

The researchers suggested these drug candidates be considered for the clinical treatment of pneumonia patients infected with 2019-nCoV.

The team will carry out further tests on these candidates to provide guidance for clinical studies and treatments of the novel coronavirus, said the CAS.