Drug for CATS may help fight coronavirus and ‘needs to be advanced quickly into human trials for Covid-19’, study claimsThe drug GC376 was found to destroy the Covid-19 virus in lab experimentsIt is already used to treat a potentially-fatal gut infection caused by another virusScientists in Canada said the pet medicine should be trialled in humans 

A drug designed for cats could protect people from the Covid-19 coronavirus, scientists have claimed.

The medicine GC376 was made to treat cats for an illness called feline infectious peritonitis, which starts in the gut and can travel to the brain and be fatal.

Feline infectious peritonitis is caused by another type of the coronavirus but scientists’ lab experiments showed it could destroy the bug that causes Covid-19.

This hasn’t been trialled in humans yet but the researchers said the fact that it works as an antiviral against coronaviruses is enough proof to push it into clinical trials.

There is currently no medication that can cure or protect people against Covid-19, and doctors can only use their best judgement about drugs that appear to work.

Survival rates have improved since the beginning of the pandemic as medics come to understand more about the disease, but a drug that could stop the coronavirus in its tracks would be a Holy Grail for doctors worldwide and save thousands of lives. 

Researchers tested a drug that is used to treat a different type of coronavirus infection in cats and found that it effectively destroyed the virus that causes Covid-19 in a lab (stock image)

The researchers, from the University of Alberta in Canada, realised that the cat drug worked by blocking an enzyme produced by a different type of coronavirus.

In doing so, it prevents the virus from reproducing and can stop the feline infectious peritonitis it is prescribed for.

The disease is caused by another coronavirus similar to the one that causes Covid-19, and affects cats’ intestines and can then trigger multiple organ failure and be fatal.

Finding the same enzyme on the Covid-19 coronavirus, the Alberta researchers tested the drug on it in a lab and found it worked in the same way.

By crippling the enzyme – a protease called Mpro – GC376 could stop the virus from reproducing, meaning it may be unable to cause infection and unable to survive.

An earlier version of the drug called GC373 also had the same effect, they found.

‘GC373 and GC376 are potent inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 replication,’ the scientists, led by Professor Jeanne Lemieux, wrote.

‘They are strong drug candidates for the treatment of human coronavirus infections because they have already been successful in animals. 

‘The work here lays the framework for their use in human trials for the treatment of COVID-19.’

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