Infection biologists have been investigation hoe the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 penetrates a cell. They have identified protease TMPRSS2 to be essential for the entry of the virus into the lungs, and a drug that is clinically proven and known to be active against the protease could constitute a treatment option as it was found to block the infection of SARS-CoV-2.
The world is being circulated by several coronaviruses, which normally, when it infects humans, caused mild respiratory disease. However, currently we are witness to a spread of a new coronavirus worldwide, with over 90,000 cases confirmed and a death toll of more that 3,000. SARS coronavirus-2 is the name that this new virus has been given, and it was transmitted to humans from animals. It causes a more serious respiratory disease that can take a more severe course, called COVID-19. The SARS coronavirus-2, which has been spreading throughout the world since December 2019 is closely related to the virus that caused the SARS pandemic in 2002 and 2003: SARS coronavirus, and there are not any drugs or vaccines currently available that can combat these viruses.
Led by infection biologists hailing from the German Primate Centre, a group of scientists including researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover Foundation, the LMU Munich, Charité, the Robert Koch Institute, the German Centre for Infection Research and the BG-Unfallklinik Murnau, wanted to research the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, how it enters host cells and most importantly how this process can be blocked. A cellular protein which is necessary for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter into lung cells was identified by researchers.
“Our results show that SARS-CoV-2 requires the protease TMPRSS2, which is present in the human body, to enter cells,”
says Stefan Pöhlmann, head of the Infection Biology Unit at the German Primate Centre.
“This protease is a potential target for therapeutic intervention.”
The researchers have been investigating wether the drug camostat mesilate, a drug approved and used for pancreatic inflamation in Japan, can prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, since it is known that the drug can inhibit the protease TMPRSS2. “We have tested SARS-CoV-2 isolated from a patient and found that camostat mesilate blocks entry of the virus into lung cells,” says the lead author of the study, Markus Hoffmann.
“Our results suggest that camostat mesilate might also protect against COVID-19,” says Markus Hoffmann.
“This should be investigated in clinical trials.”