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A new drug seeks ‘real revenge’ on COVID by turning the virus against itself

A neurologist at a prestigious US research institute has developed an experimental COVID treatment he calls “true revenge” that weapons the virus against itself.

The treatment, called NMT5, was created by Dr. Stuart Lipton, the founder of the Neurodegeneration New Medicines Center at the Scripps Research Institute, and a team of scientists. It’s a derivative of memantine, an Alzheimer’s drug Lipton developed in the 1990s that happened to come from a drug used in the 1960s on people infected with the flu.

Now a COVID antiviral drug, NMT5 — if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — would be taken orally by an infected person, much like Paxlovid, the popular pills taken at home by those diagnosed with the virus. .

But unlike Paxlovid, which prevents COVID from replicating in an infected person’s body, NMT5 alters the virus, giving it “warheads” that temporarily alter the cells where COVID usually attaches and enters, so that the virus can no longer survive. capable of infecting them.

Due to the different approach to attacking the virus, NMT5 is believed to prevent the spread of infection to others. Those infected with COVID who take the new drug are expected to spread a virus that self-destructs — meaning it shouldn’t be able to infect a new host, according to the study.

It’s a feat no other COVID vaccine or treatment has yet accomplished — “real revenge” on a virus that has caused so much death and suffering in recent years, says Lipton, who is also a professor of neuroscience and neurology at the University of Groningen. University of San Diego School of Medicine and Yale School of Medicine.

A peer-reviewed study by Lipton and his team, published Sept. 29 in Nature Chemical Biology found promising results using the experimental drug in Syrian golden hamsters, which are extremely susceptible to COVID and are considered the gold standard in testing potential therapies.

The study also found that in hamsters, the drug “virtually eliminated” major bleeding in the lungs commonly seen when autopsy on COVID fatal cases is seen. It also significantly reduced the inflammatory response in hamsters that took it, compared to hamsters that didn’t.

In addition, NMT5 was found to be highly effective against the COVID variants Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron. It reduced the virus’ ability to replicate in the host and transmit it to others by up to 95%, the study says.

Another bonus: Not only can the drug be taken in pill form, but it can also be inhaled, meaning it can immediately diffuse into the lungs and nasal passages, where the virus enters the body, ideally to prevent further spread.

Because NMT5 is a combination of two FDA-approved drugs — memantine and nitroglycerin — it’s likely safe, Lipton says, although it still has to undergo an FDA review. He hopes the human trials can begin in the coming months, a year at most. If approved by the FDA, the drug would hit the market soon after.

He has no illusions that the drug will end the pandemic, even at best. But it could serve as a new drug against the virus — one that, when combined with improved boosters, could eventually tame the rampaging virus.

“The great thing about this new drug is that it’s totally new,” Lipton said of the drug that started as a treatment for the flu before being turned into a drug for Alzheimer’s disease — and now perhaps the newest weapon against COVID.

“We took an antiviral drug and made it better for the brain, and then made it better against the virus. What could be a cooler story than that?”

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