Natural Compounds Can Stop SARS-CoV-2

Researchers from Qatar University have modeled the structure of the SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, and have computationally identified several natural compounds with the potential to bind effectively to the spike. Their research could lead to the development of new drugs that could help eliminate the virus in patients’ bodies, even if the virus has mutated beyond recognition of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines.

The original SARS-CoV-2 virus has infected nearly 100 million people all over the world, killing approximately 1% of the infected. While vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer are being provided to citizens in developed nations, there are disturbing news about new mutated strains of the virus, which the current vaccines may not be able to efficiently counter.

It is clear that we must have better methods to hold back the mutated strains even if they’re immune to the current vaccines. Furthermore, we need therapeutics that can help the body eliminate the mutated virus even after the point of infection, when the virus runs rampant in the patient’s body. In order to do that, we must reach a better understanding of the virus’ structure, so that we can identify the best drug candidates for the job.

Researchers from Qatar University in Qatar have recently made a breakthrough in the analysis of one of the virus’ most crucial components: the molecular spike that allows it to adhere to human cells. They used electron microscopy results to model the structure of the spike protein. They then virtually examined a wide variety of compounds – natural and others – to predict which therapies have the best chance of binding to the spike protein and effectively preventing the virus from infecting new cells.

A model of the virus’ spike protein structure. Source

Using this methodology, the researchers identified several natural compounds that could bind effectively to the spike protein, on a level competing with that of current drugs used to treat COVID-19. Those compounds could be the base on which new anti-SARS-CoV-2 drugs would be developed.

This work is important especially since as the virus further mutates, its spike protein’s structure constantly changes. Even if the new vaccines fail to stop the mutated virus, this work could provide the basis for analyzing every new strain with different spike protein structure. It would thus make it easier to come up with new drugs that would hold back even new mutated strains. 

Eventually, mankind will beat the virus back, possibly even eliminating it altogether. When that happens, it’ll be the result of research works like this one.

The researchers involved in this work were Shilu Mathew, Fatiha Benslimane, Asmaa A. Althani and Hadi M. Yassine from Qatar University in Qatar.

Original content by Nawartna

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