CQUniversity lead researcher Dr Mani Naiker has headed a study into COVID-19 treatments
CQUniversity lead researcher Dr Mani Naiker has headed a study into COVID-19 treatments

CQ researchers inch closer to COVID-19 treatment

In the absence of a vaccine, antiviral medicines to treat the viral infections increasing the chance of survival have become the next best thing and CQUniversity researchers are a step closer a treatment.

A small troop of researchers have offered up natural and traditional as new directions for identifying chemical compounds to fight COVID-19, identifying a wealth of antiviral compounds warranting further investigation.

The team of researchers found the most promising small molecules identified as 'coronavirus inhibitors' contained a conjugated fused ring structure, with the majority classified as 'polyphenols'.

"Our aim was to collate data on the broad spectrum of natural phytochemicals from individual plant species that may have therapeutic potential for the inhibition of coronaviruses," lead researcher Dr Mani Naiker said.

"It is hoped that the information presented may guide the naturally-derived drug discovery process in finding a treatment for the COVID-19 coronavirus."

The team of six CQUniversity scientists based in Rockhampton's Central Queensland Innovation and Research Precinct, and one from the Queensland University of Technology, reviewed the PubMed database of scientific literature to identify previous research into both human and animal coronaviruses, and what treatments those research projects identified.

There are four families of coronaviruses, only two of which impact humans but coronaviruses are unique in their ability to spread and mutate quickly, as demonstrated by the SARS, MERS and current COVID-19 outbreaks.

Together the virus' have resulted in the deaths of more than 210 000 people.

"At present, no preventative vaccines or established antiviral therapies are available for coronaviruses, however, several synthetic compounds have shown promise," the report states.

"A selection of compounds that are active against animal coronaviruses are also active against human coronavirus strains. This underscores the potential of utilising compounds with identified activity against animal coronaviruses to guide the discovery of drugs against human coronaviruses."

The study also found that traditional herbal medicines and purified natural products may provide the framework for more efficient drugs based on the structure of natural compounds.

"The challenge is to isolate and synthesise the active agents in the natural compounds that display antiviral properties so that they have the potency required to act as antiviral medicines," Dr Naiker said.

"Future studies that identify an effective natural inhibitor of coronavirus should also consider the design and testing of potential modifications or synthetic derivatives that could increase its desired activity.

"Needless to say, both in vitro (lab) and in vivo (live) testing is required to determine safe and therapeutic levels for each compound before clinical trials in humans could be performed."

The review team was comprised of CQUniversity's Dr Naiker, postgraduate researchers Janice Mani and Joel Johnson, Dr Jason Steel, Dr Paul Neilsen, Professor Kerry Walsh; and Dr Daniel Broszczak of QUT.

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