The Next Treatment for COVID-19 Could Already Be at Your Local Pharmacy

Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers worldwide have been looking for ways to treat COVID-19. And while the COVID-19 vaccines represent the best measure to prevent the disease, therapies for those who do get infected remain in short supply.

A new groundbreaking study from the University of Michigan reveals several drug contenders already in use for other purposes—including one dietary supplement—that have been shown to block or reduce SARS-CoV-2 infection in cells.

The study, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses artificial intelligence-powered image analysis of human cell lines during infection with the novel coronavirus.

The cells were treated with more than 1,400 individual FDA-approved drugs and compounds, either before or after viral infection, and screened, resulting in 17 potential hits. Ten of those hits were newly recognized, with seven identified in previous drug repurposing studies, including remdesivir, which is one of the few FDA-approved therapies for COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.

“Traditionally, the drug development process takes a decade—and we just don’t have a decade,” said Jonathan Sexton, Ph.D., assistant professor of Internal Medicine at the U-M Medical School and one of the senior authors on the paper. “The therapies we discovered are well positioned for phase 2 clinical trials because their safety has already been established.”

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