A new drug combination can suppress infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, according to a study conducted in animals and cell cultures.
Early test results, published in the journal Viruses, found that the combined use of the anti-viral drugs Nafamostat and Pegasys meets all availability and efficacy requirements.
“This combination effectively suppresses the infection,” said Denis Kainov, Professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
The experiments were performed in cell cultures and hamsters, the researchers said.
They noted that this does not necessarily mean that the combination works in humans, but could be a hot tip for researchers who are already testing Nafamostat in the fight against COVID-19.
According to the researchers, Nafamostat is already in use as a monotherapy against COVID-19 and is undergoing extensive testing in Japan, among other places.
Pegasys is currently used mainly to treat hepatitis C. Combining the two appears to have a positive effect, they said.
“Both drugs attack a factor in our cells called TMPRSS2, which plays a critical role in viral replication,” said Magnar Bjoras, Professor, NTNU.
The researchers noted that only low doses of the combination medicine are needed.
“The low doses of the drugs in combination may have several clinical advantages, including fewer adverse events and improved outcomes for patients,” said Aleksandr Ianevski, a doctoral research fellow at NTNU.
The researchers believe the combination medicine can both save lives and make life easier for patients.
Nafamostat is relatively inexpensive while the downside of Pegasys is its higher cost, they noted.
“SARS-CoV-2 and its vaccine/immune-escaping variants continue to pose a serious threat to public health due to a paucity of effective, rapidly deployable and widely available treatments,” the authors of the study noted.
“Our study may provide a proactive solution for the ongoing pandemic and the potential future coronavirus outbreaks, which is still urgently required in many parts of the world,” they added.
Apart from NTNU, other researchers in the study are from Oslo University Hospital, the University of Oslo, both in Norway, the French precision medicine company Oncodesign, the University of Tartu in Estonia and the University of Helsinki in Finland.