Can Feline Medicines Treat COVID-19 in Humans?

feline medicines

Two feline medicines are currently under discussion to determine their benefits for COVID-19 patients. One strain of coronavirus can only affect cats and is called “feline enteric coronavirus” (FeCV).  According to the College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University this virus attacks the cat’s GI tract and doesn’t show any distinctive symptoms.

This feline coronavirus shows an unusual behavior. One in ten cases of coronavirus in cats, the virus changes itself that it ditches their immune system and spread to all body cells. Once it reaches all body parts, it induces a severe inflammation response and this stage of the virus is known as “feline infectious peritonitis virus” (FIPV). If ignored, it can cause death in cats.

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Two experimental medicines that typically treat FIPV in cats are under discussion for their benefits in human patients. None of these medicines has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But researchers are hopeful about both these medicines to be helpful against coronavirus cases in humans including the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus that triggers COVID-19 in humans.

Joanne Lemieux, a biochemist has commented on these drugs are termed as GC376 and GS-441524 saying that these medicines have proven benefits for cats. And it doesn’t require any other treatment in addition to these medicines.

These medicines work by preventing the virus to replicate suggesting the same benefits may be true for human patients too.

GC376 attacks an enzyme named M protease. Coronavirus in cats need this enzyme to replicate its genetic material (viral RNA) and if this enzyme is damaged, their coronavirus in cats cannot proceed with its replication. As a result of this, the cat would not be sick with feline coronavirus.

Interestingly, the SARS-CoV-2, in humans also relies on the  M protease to replicate inside a human host.  build copies of the virus. A study from the journal PLOS Pathogens, explains the role of GC376 medicine in inhibiting the action of  M protease in two previously known strains of coronavirus; SAR-CoV and MERS-CoV. These two strains were associated with SARS and MERS pandemic in the 2000s.

Another study published this year in Cell Research reveals that this medicine may also prevent SARS-CoV-2 to copy its genetic material. However, it is only studied at the laboratory level and no human trials of this medicine were made.

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This evidences have urged Anivive Lifesciences, which is a company that produces GC376 for feline patients to conduct human trials of this medicine and analyze their benefits for human COVID-19 patients.

The second medicine, GS-441524 also has the same potential and shows positive results against SARS-CoV-2. This medicine is somehow close to a human medicine redeliver, which was initially used to treat COVID-19 patients.

Remdesivir is an anti-viral medicine that shortens the hospitalization of coronavirus patients. Because of this feline coronavirus medicine, many research centers and pharmaceutical companies are conducting trials on finding the efficiency and safety level of these medicines against human patients.

Note that at this point both these medicines are not tested in human participants.




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