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Therapy Discovered Which Blocks Multiple SARS-CoV-2 Variants

Mice treated with diABZI showed reduced weight loss and reduced viral load in the lungs and nostrils.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has discovered that the therapy diABZI was highly effective at preventing a severe case of COVID-19 in mice that were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Results from the study were published in the journal Science immunology.

"Few drugs have been identified as game-changers in blocking SARS-CoV-2 infection. This paper is the first to show that activating an early immune response therapeutically with a single dose is a promising strategy for controlling the virus, including the South African variant B.1.351, which has led to worldwide concern," Sara Cherry, senior author on the study said. "The development of effective antivirals is urgently needed for controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease, especially as dangerous variants of the virus continue to emerge."

For the study, the team of investigators wanted to gain a better understanding of how the SARS-CoV-2 virus targets epithelial cells in the respiratory tract, so they used a microscope to observe human lung cells that had been infected. They discovered that the virus could hide, which caused a delay in the immune systems response.

They then set out to identify drugs that could initiate the immune response and prevent a potential infection.

To do this, the team conducted high throughput screening of 75 therapies which target the sensing pathways in lung cells. One therapy they decided to test was a STING agonist called diABZI and found that it potently inhibited SARS-CoV-2 infection of diverse strains by stimulating interferon signaling.

Following the discovery, the investigators tested the therapy’s effectiveness when administered through a nasal delivery system in transgenic mice with a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Findings showed that the mice who received the therapy showed much less weight loss when compared to the mice who did not receive it. Additionally, the mice had significantly reduced viral loads in both their lungs and nostrils.

"We are now testing this STING agonist against many other viruses," Cherry said. "It's really important to remember that SARS-CoV-2 is not going to be the last coronavirus that we will see and will need protection against."