Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery

Allison L Totura, Sina Bavari
Expert Opinion on Drug Discovery 2019, 14 (4): 397-412
The highly pathogenic coronaviruses severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) are lethal zoonotic viruses that have emerged into human populations these past 15 years. These coronaviruses are associated with novel respiratory syndromes that spread from person-to-person via close contact, resulting in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Areas covered: The risks of re-emergence of SARS-CoV from bat reservoir hosts, the persistence of MERS-CoV circulation, and the potential for future emergence of novel coronaviruses indicate antiviral drug discovery will require activity against multiple coronaviruses. In this review, approaches that antagonize viral nonstructural proteins, neutralize structural proteins, or modulate essential host elements of viral infection with varying levels of efficacy in models of highly pathogenic coronavirus disease are discussed. Expert opinion: Treatment of SARS and MERS in outbreak settings has focused on therapeutics with general antiviral activity and good safety profiles rather than efficacy data provided by cellular, rodent, or nonhuman primate models of highly pathogenic coronavirus infection. Based on lessons learned from SARS and MERS outbreaks, lack of drugs capable of pan-coronavirus antiviral activity increases the vulnerability of public health systems to a highly pathogenic coronavirus pandemic.

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