According to research, treatment might hinge on Hepatitis-C medication.
Cairo University has just announced the formation of 5 research units, composed of more than 25 scientists, professors and researchers, that will be working to develop medical treatments for COVID-19. Among the team is Dr. Abdo Elfiky, associate professor in the Department of Biophysics, who just last month published two research articles in international journals on possible treatments.
Now buckle up, kids, we’re about to get medical. We trudged through doctor-speak so you don’t have to, and here’s what the research is likely to do:
Basically, once the virus enters a human body, the spikes that give the novel Coronavirus its distinctive spiky look are in charge of latching on to the normal cells in our bodies, opening them up and inserting the virus.
When the virus enters the body, the creatively-named ‘spike protein’ on the outside latches on to the normal cells in our bodies, inducing the cell wall to open up and insert the viral particle (the virus itself) by grabbing on to a specific receptor (GRP78) in our own cells.
What the team at Cairo University is trying to do is figure out the exact dynamic of binding that leads to the virus’s entry, and be the ultimate third wheel, preventing the reaction between the spike protein and the receptor on our cells, and so denying the virus entry.
But what if it gets in anyway? After the virus latches on to the cell, it starts a chain reaction to sneak its way into the nucleus of the cell - normally dedicated to storing replicating our own DNA, mitosis, you remember that whole 10th-grade biology schtick - and hijack the machinery to produce the virus’s own genetic material.
So the virus becomes a very demanding squatter, and forces the nucleus to produce the virus’s own DNA, forms a new protective shell, and off it goes to do this again and again to different cells.
So here’s the second thing the Cairo Uni team is trying to do: if the virus has entered the cell, it So here’s the second thing the Cairo Uni team is trying to do: if the virus has entered the cell, it doesn’t get to replicate its genetic material. Using nucleotide inhibitors, the team aims to stop the process in its tracks. The dual-pronged approach is basically: if you can’t stop it, you can at least disrupt its massive chain reaction, curing the patient.
The general consensus in finding cures for the novel coronavirus has been to work with what we know has worked with other diseases, which is why different teams are focusing on HIV, ebola, or malaria drugs.
What Dr. Elfiky’s research has been about, and what the research units are likely to focus on, is the repurposing of Hepatitis C medication, in specific combinations and doses. But this isn’t a call to go hoarding Hep-C medication like many Americans did with malaria drugs when Trump misleadingly tweeted it as “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,” causing a shortage for people who needed it. So, don't do that. Thanks.
We’ll wait on conclusive results and for now, stick to curfew and wash our hands.