[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 18-Apr-2013
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Contact: Ken Pekoc
kpekoc@niaid.nih.go
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Treatment for novel coronavirus shows promise in early lab tests

Interferon and ribavirin inhibit virus replication in cell culture, NIH study finds

IMAGE: This is a transmission electron micrograph of the novel coronavirus.

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National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists studying an emerging coronavirus have found that a combination of two licensed antiviral drugs, ribavirin and interferon-alpha 2b, can stop the virus from replicating in laboratory-grown cells. These results suggest that the drug combination could be used to treat patients infected with the new coronavirus, but more research is needed to confirm this preliminary finding. The study appears in the April 18, 2013, issue of Scientific Reports.

The new coronavirus, called nCoV, was first identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. As of April 16, 2013, the World Health Organization has reported 17 cases with 11 deaths, primarily in the Middle East. Although the case count is small, the new coronavirus has transmitted from human-to-human in situations where people—mainly family members—have had close contact with those infected.

Because of the high fatality rate, scientists at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) saw an urgent need to identify therapeutic options. In laboratory tests using cells from two species of monkey, the researchers found that either ribavirin or interferon-alpha 2b, drugs currently approved for hepatitis C therapy, inhibited nCoV from replicating when used individually. However, the required drug concentrations exceeded what is recommended for people. By combining the two antivirals, the scientists established an effective treatment dose at a drug level that is achievable in people. The NIAID researchers plan to confirm these results in a recently developed monkey model of nCoV infection. (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2013/Pages/NovelCoronavirus.aspx)

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ARTICLES:
Falzarano et al. Inhibition of novel human coronavirus-EMC replication by a combination of interferon-alpha2b and ribavirin. Scientific Reports DOI: 10.1038/srep01686 (2013).

Munster et al. Novel Human Coronavirus Causes Pneumonia in a Macaque Model Resembling Human Disease. New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1215691 (2013).

Vincent Munster, Ph.D., chief of the virus ecology unit in NIAID's Laboratory of Virology, is leading the NIAID team investigating the new coronavirus.

To schedule interviews, please contact Ken Pekoc, (301) 402-1663, kpekoc@niaid.nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov/.

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