COVID-19: Antiparasitic Medication Commonly Used to Treat TAPEWORM Infections ‘May Prevent Lung Damage’
Lung damage in patients with COVID-19 could potentially be prevented with the help of an anti-parasitic drug commonly used to treat tapeworm infections, a study finds.
Backed by the British Heart Foundation, the researchers used robotic technology to screen more than 3,000 approved drugs for use against the novel coronavirus.
They found that niclosamide blocks a protein that COVID-19 uses to force infected cells to fuse with their neighbors and that it can also reduce cell death from the virus.
The researchers now plan to conduct a human clinical trial to test the drug’s protective benefits as a treatment for real patients.
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Lung damage in patients with COVID-19 can be prevented with the help of an anti-parasitic drug (niclosamide, pictured) commonly used to treat tapeworm infections, a study found.
The team found that Niclosamide (whose molecular structure is shown on the left and often used to treat tapeworms such as Diphyllobothrium, shown on the right) blocks a protein that uses COVID-19 to force infected cells to fuse with their neighbors.
Niclosamide is a drug used to treat infestations from various forms of tapeworm diphyllobothriasis, hymenolepiasis and taeniasis.
It is taken orally and has side effects such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and itching.
It works by preventing the worm from absorbing sugar.
Niclosamide, however, is not effective against pinworms and roundworms.
Outside of human medicine, it has also been used to kill lamprey larvae, mollusks, and various fish.
“People with cardiovascular disease are at greater risk of developing more serious COVID-19 disease,” says British Heart Foundation associate medical director and molecular cardiologist Metin Avkiran.
“We are fully committed to supporting our researchers to use their expertise to find new treatments,” he added.
This exciting study has not only revealed a process by which the virus damages lung cells, but also identified an existing drug that can block that process.
More research is needed to determine the benefits of the drug in treating patients with COVID-19 and whether it can also inhibit dangerous processes in other cells that lead to blood clots, which often develop in severe COVID-19. ‘
In a previous study, researchers at King’s College London examined the lungs of 41 people who had died as a result of contracting COVID-19.
They found that in 90 percent of the patients studied, certain lung cells appeared larger than they should be – in fact, multiple cells had fused together to form these larger virus-infected lung cells.
Now, King’s College cardiovascular expert Mauro Giacca and colleagues have discovered that this harmful fusion of cells is triggered by the so-called spike protein that sits on the outer surface of each SARS-CoV-2 particle.
In an earlier study, researchers at King’s College London studied the lungs of 41 people who had died as a result of contracting COVID-19. They found that in 90 percent of the patients studied, certain lung cells seemed bigger than they should be – in fact, multiple healthy cells (like the one in the photo on the right) had fused together to form these larger virus-infected lung cells. (as seen on the left). In the above image, blue represents cell nuclei, green are COVID spike proteins, and cell bodies are shaded in red
The virus invades healthy cells by binding its spike protein to their ‘ACE-2’ molecules – which acts as an ‘entry point’ into the cell for the attacker.
Once a cell is infected with coronavirus, it manifests the same viral spike protein across its surfaces and in turn turns on a protein called TMEM16, causing the infected cells to reach out and merge with their neighbors.
This mechanism of action was revealed after the researchers screened more than 3,000 existing drugs that they suspected could help reduce cell fusion, and found that Niclosamide, which is known to block TMEM16, did just that.
They also found that in lab tests, the anti-parasitic drug helped protect against COVID-19-induced cell death.
Backed by the British Heart Foundation, the researchers used robotic technology (photo) to screen more than 3,000 approved drugs for use against the new coronavirus.
‘Coronavirus is a complex virus. It can persist for a long time in the lungs of infected people, where cells infected by the virus can cause additional damage to normal cells, ‘explains Professor Mauro Giacca.
Even though we now have a vaccine, it is still vital that we find new treatments to prevent and reverse the long-lasting devastation these infected cells are causing.
By blocking TMEM16, Niclosamide looks like it has the power to do just this.
“We now plan to initiate a clinical trial so that niclosamide can be quickly reused as a COVID-19 treatment,” he concluded.
The full findings of the study have been published in the journal Nature
WHAT IS A TAPEWORM?
Tapeworms have evolved specialized ‘heads’ that carry an arsenal of spines or retractable hooks to attach to the intestines of their hosts.
These parasites do not have their own intestines. Instead, they use their outer surface to absorb nutrients and excrete waste.
Beyond the ‘head’ and ‘neck’ area, a tapeworm is just a series of segments, each with its own male and female sexual parts. They eventually ripen and make eggs.
Tapeworms infest a wide variety of animals. Whales get tapeworms and in these huge mammals the parasites can grow up to 30 meters or more.
If untreated in humans, the patient’s life can be endangered as the contamination can affect important parts of the intestine.