According to new research from National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists at the Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the oral antiviral drug TEMPOL could limit SARS-CoV-2 infection capabilities.
Though still considered experimental, the drug’s efficacy was demonstrated in a study of cell cultures. Therein, it showed the capability to block the activity of a viral enzyme called RNA replicase, essentially keeping the COVID-19 causing virus from replicating in cells.
“Given TEMPOL’s safety profile and the dosage considered therapeutic in our study, we are hopeful,” said Dr. Tracey Rouault, head of the NICHD Section on Human Iron Metabolism and study lead. “However, clinical studies are needed to determine if the drug is effective in patients, particularly early in the disease course when the virus begins to replicate.”
The study results, published in Science, showed that the SARS-CoV-2 RNA replicase requires two iron-sulfur cluster binding sites to be successful. TEMPOL exploits that weakness by degrading iron-sulfur clusters. Other studies have seen the drug tested on animals for various diseases.
The research team included experts from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and Pennsylvania State University. The team intends to conduct additional animal studies and to pursue a proper clinical study of TEMPOL.