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HKU investigators discovered antiviral compound effective against MERS, SARS, avian flu

Dr. Joseph Delano Fule Robles
23 Jan 2019
From left: Dr Jasper Fuk-Woo Chan, Prof Kwok-Yung Yuen, Dr Shuofeng Yuan and Dr Hin Chu

Scientists from the Department of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong (HKU) recently discovered a compound with broad antiviral activity against viruses causing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), avian flu (H7N9), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Zika fever.

The compound, called AM580, is a synthetic retinoid acid receptor-alpha (RAR-α) agonist that interferes with viruses’ lipid metabolism through interaction with sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBP). [Nat Commun 2019, doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-08015-x]

“Profound increases in major lipogenic enzymes are associated with viral infections and AM580 was shown to antagonize these changes, thereby reducing virus replication,” the investigators explained.

In vitro experiments showed that treatment with AM580 reduced MERS viral titres in cell culture supernatants and decreased expression of viral nucleoproteins. AM580’s antiviral effect was also observed in other important viruses causing epidemics, such as SARS, H1N1 and Zika viruses. 

In vivo experiments in MERS-infected mice treated with AM580 showed less body weight loss (p<0.05) and lower lung tissue virus titres and viral loads (p<0.01) vs control mice.

Moreover, mice challenged with H7N9 (avian flu) viruses then treated with AM580 had higher survival rates (60 percent vs 0 percent; p<0.01) and lower viral loads in lung tissues (p<0.01) vs control mice.

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Most Read Articles
Pearl Toh, 31 Dec 2019
Adding the neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir to usual care speeds up recovery from influenza-like illness by a day compared with usual care alone, with even greater benefits seen in older, sicker patients with comorbidities, according to the ALIC4E study.
23 Dec 2019
At a Menarini-sponsored symposium held during the Asian Pacific Society Congress, renowned cardiologist Prof John Camm provided the latest evidence for chronic stable angina with or without concomitant diseases, with a special focus on the antianginal agent ranolazine and combination therapies. The event was chaired and moderated by Dr Dante Morales from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.
09 Jan 2020
Acute ischaemic stroke patients who are current or recent smokers are at greater odds of having unfavourable functional outcomes 3 months after the index event, a study has found.
Stephen Padilla, 3 days ago
Brodalumab has exhibited long-term efficacy and consistent safety profile for more than 2 years in the treatment of patients with psoriasis, results of the phase III AMAGINE-2 trial show.