Researchers In Hong Kong Announce Major Discovery In Fight Against Coronavirus

(Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)

Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Researchers from the University of Hong Kong Department of Microbiology announced a major discovery that could combat the coronavirus and six other respiratory viruses in a statement Wednesday.

The discovery of the P9R peptide demonstrated a potential antiviral remedy to combat the coronavirus and other influenza strains previously responsible for pandemics like the H1N1 virus, the statement said. Peptides are amino acid chains that can bind to coronavirus proteins and shut them down, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The research team said the peptide could be purposed into a broad-spectrum antiviral drug more effective than other treatments for emerging infections like the coronavirus.

“Making a broad-spectrum antiviral drug might be a game-changing strategy that could offer broad-spectrum solutions and rapid pandemic control,” researchers said in the statement.

HONG KONG, CHINA - JANUARY 22: A patient is transferred by an ambulance to the Infectious Disease Centre of Princess Margaret Hospital on January 22, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong reported its first two cases of Wuhan coronavirus infections as the number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to seventeen on Wednesday and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States,Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

A patient is transferred by an ambulance to the Infectious Disease Centre in Hong Kong (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Researchers published their findings Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Communications. The peptide discovered contained alkaline compounds that could potentially prevent certain viruses from completing the viral life cycle, the study concluded.

The virus originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and quickly evolved into a pandemic due to a lack of pre-existing immunity, according to the study. (RELATED: Hong Kong Researchers Say They Identified 1st Reported Instance Of Coronavirus Reinfection)

Nearly 24 million cases have been reported worldwide, including roughly 820,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The researchers said they tested P9R on mice and found that the peptide “could significantly protect mice from influenza virus infection.” The study also did not report drug-resistant mutations that could otherwise arise from antiviral testing. Virologists have previously reported drug-resistant strains among a number of viruses, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“An effective broad-spectrum antiviral will improve patients’ outcome and may reduce transmission in communities and hospitals even before the identification of the novel emerging virus and the specific antiviral drug,” the study concluded.