Ebselen, synthetic drug for bipolar disorder and hearing loss, could help treat COVID-19: Study
The study, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, was conducted using state of the art computer simulations and no clinical trials have been done so far to prove the effects in coronavirus patients.
In a new study, professor Juan de Pablo and his colleagues at the University of Chicago claim that Ebselen, a synthetic drug currently being investigated for use in the treatment of hearing loss and bipolar disease, can be effective against SARS-CoV-2.
The study, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, was conducted using state of the art computer simulations. No clinical trials have been done so far to prove the effects in coronavirus patients.
Ebselen is an organoselenium compound that is shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cytoprotective (protects healthy cells) properties. It prevents cellular damage caused due to reactive oxygen species. Ebselen is also proposed to have neuroprotective (protective of brain cells) properties.
The drug is being investigated for its effect on Meniere's disease, noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus and bipolar disorder. It is also suggested to be effective against multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Meniere's disease is an inner ear disease that causes vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus. It usually affects one ear and the hearing loss may be permanent. Staphylococcus aureus causes a variety of infections ranging from skin infections like boils to severe and life-threatening respiratory tract infections.
Previous clinical studies have shown the safety of this drug in humans. In 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration gave fast track designation to SPI-1005, a drug containing ebselen, for the treatment of Meniere's disease.
Earlier studies have shown that Mpro is a protease enzyme that is resistant to mutations and hence an ideal target site for drugs. Not long back, a group of researchers in Russia had indicated that disulfiram, the drug used to treat alcoholism can bind to and inactivate Mpro. This keeps the virus from making copies of itself and hence helps contain the infection.
Ebselen works in a similar fashion. It can identify and bind to the active site of Mpro. Enzymes are proteins that are folded in a way to create active sites. These sites are like pockets where the substrate binds for the enzyme to function.
Apart from the active site of Mpro, ebselen can also bind at other sites on the enzyme. This changes the structure of the active site in such a way that it is unable to bind to the original substrate.
New category of drugs
The researchers state that this study points to a potential new category of drugs, Mpro inhibitors, for the treatment of coronavirus infection.
In a news release, the researchers said that the findings are particularly important because it revealed a new vulnerability in the COVID-19 causing virus, which can be exploited to stop the spread of the disease.
Drugs like lopinavir or ritonavir that are proposed for COVID-19 treatment also target SARS-CoV-2 proteases like 3CLpro and PLpro.
The team is still investigating more drugs which have the potential to affect SARS-CoV-2 and can be repurposed for COVID-19 treatment. Dr Pablo announced that they will be releasing information about another possible drug candidate for the coronavirus disease soon.
For more information on drugs being repurposed for COVID-19 , read our article on Scientists are trying out these existing drugs to treat COVID-19
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