Teicoplanin, an antibiotic medicine, may be a potential option for treating coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients, according to a research conducted by scientists at Kusuma School of Biological Sciences (KSBS) in Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi.
In laboratory experiments, the medicine effectively inhibited the activity of the 3CLpro enzyme that is needed for replication of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.
The medicine was found to be up to 20 times more effective in inhibiting the activity of 3CLpro than some of the medicines that have been used in Covid-19 patients such as anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and Chloroquine, antibiotic Azithromycin, and anti-Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) medicine Lopinavir.
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“Covid-19 has affected millions of people across the world and there is no specific treatment for the viral infection. We have been working for the last seven to eight months to find possible treatment for the infection. We started looking at drugs that are already approved and are in the market. If found effective, these drugs will be available for the treatment of Covid-19 patients,” said Dr Ashok Patel, assistant professor at KSBS, IIT-Delhi.
Earlier, KSBS was the first academic institute to develop a novel and cheaper reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kit to conduct a Covid-19 test.
The researchers decided to make the 3CLpro enzyme that they knew was the key for viral replication because a biosafety level (BSL)-3 laboratory—a requirement for any institute wanting to work on the Sars-CoV-2 virus—was not available.
They found a way around to conduct the research about the virus that enters a human body and replicates within cells to cause Covid-19.
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“We created a list of about 100 existing medicines that we thought could attack the captain of the cricket team, the 3CLpro protease (enzyme) that is crucial for viral replication. After testing, we found 11 molecules that were responding to this viral protein, which included the medicines already in use such as Azithromycin, Chloroquine, Lopinavir and even Oseltamivir that are used to treat H1N1, or swine flu. But, Teicoplanin turned out to be upto 20 times more effective than the other medicines,” said Dr Patel.
The researchers collaborated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, for some advanced testing.
“Unlike HCQ, which is harmful for the heart, there aren’t any major side-effects of Teicoplanin,” he said. The institute did not have ethical clearance for human trials. However, these trials would be needed to prove that the medicine is, indeed, effective in treating the viral infection, he added.
“Teicoplanin is an approved broad spectrum antibiotic that is given to patients, especially in critical care, for various reasons. It is an interesting finding. However, viral culture studies and small human trials have to be conducted before it can be approved for an off-label use, which refers to a use of a medicine for a condition for which it was not approved. Many antibiotics such as Azithromycin and Doxycycline are being prescribed to Covid-19 patients across the country, and at times, indiscriminately. It might lead to large scale antimicrobial resistance in the future,” warned Dr Neeraj Gupta, a professor at the department of pulmonology in Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi.
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