Alcoholism drug disulfiram shows strong potential as COVID-19 treatment

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The drug disulfiram is a common treatment for alcoholism due to its ability to produce a number of unpleasant effects after drinking. From headaches, to nausea, to sweating, it works by essentially causing an immediate hangover. Now, Russian chemists suggest that disulfiram may also be useful in treating COVID-19.

Researchers in Moscow say molecular modeling is focusing on identifying structural components in SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. The work is looking for areas that can be targeted to slow down or stop virus from replicating.

The study reveals that disulfiram and another drug, neratinib, have a special ability to lock on and possibly deactivate SARS-CoV-2.

The Russian team also focuses on SARS-CoV-2 components that are resistant to mutation. Mutation resistance is important in antiviral drug development because viruses commonly adapt to antibiotics. If an antiviral drug targets a viral component that is prone to mutation, then the drug may not work once the virus mutates.

A key SARS-CoV-2 enzyme called M pro plays a pivotal role in controlling viral replication and is also mutation resistant. This makes it an excellent candidate target for COVID-19 drugs. However, blocking M pro is not easy.

In many cases, antiviral drugs bind or “dock” to specific components of a virus known as “active sites.” Researchers say normal docking doesn’t work for SARS-CoV-2. To resolve this dilemma, the chemists used a technique they developed shortly before the pandemic began, known as “on-top docking.”

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