Hong Kong scientists say anti-microbe drug successful against coronavirus

An affordable antimicrobial drug used to treat gastric ulcers and bacterial infections has shown promise in fighting the coronavirus in animals, scientists in Hong Kong announced on Monday.
The researchers wanted to investigate whether metallodrugs - compounds that contain metal that is more commonly used against bacteria - could also have antiviral properties that could fight the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
Using Syrian hamsters as test subjects, they found that one of the drugs, ranitidine bismuth citrate (RBC), was "an effective anti-SARS-CoV-2 agent".
"RBC is able to lower the viral load in the lungs of the infected hamster ten-fold," Hong Kong University researcher Runming Wang told reporters on Monday when the team unveiled their study.
"Our results show that RBC is a potential antiviral for Covid-19."
The coronavirus has killed more than a million people since it surfaced in China last December and then spread around the world.
While scientists were looking for a vaccine, they were also scouring readily available drugs that could relieve symptoms caused by Covid-19 disease or help the body fight infection.
Remdesivir, a broad spectrum antiviral drug, and dexamethasone, a type of corticosteroid, both have had some success against the virus. Both were used by doctors to treat U.S. President Donald Trump after signing Covid-19.
But they have drawbacks.
Remdesivir is expensive and there is a global shortage, while dexamethasone has immunosuppressive effects that are risky for all but the sickest patients. Other drug cocktails have shown that liver damage can be a risk.
The Hong Kong scientists said RBC was a widely available gastric ulcer drug with a safe and comprehensive pharmacological profile.
"It's been used for decades, so it's pretty safe," said Wang.
They added that their research, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, suggested that other metallodrugs could also work against the virus and should be further studied.
jta / qan

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