Next best thing to a cure: Queensland researchers in huge Covid-19 breakthrough as they find a way to kill 99.9% of the virus in people’s lungs
- Australian scientists develop groundbreaking treatment that stops coronavirus
- The antiviral therapy was proven to kill 99 per cent of the virus in the lungs
- The technology works by using an RNA medicine known as gene-silencing
Scientists have developed an antiviral drug that kills off 99.9 per cent of Covid particles in the lungs of mice.
The ‘next-generation’ treatment works like a ‘heat-seeking missile’ to detect the viral load and attack them.
It has been developed by a team of international experts from Australia’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland at Griffith University.
The treatment, given via an injection, works by using a medical technology called gene-silencing that was first discovered in Australia during the 1990s.
Gene-silencing utilises RNA – fundamental building blocks in the body, similar to DNA – to attack the respiratory disease.
RNA was also used to develop the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines, shown to be up to 96 per cent effective at blocking the disease.
The new therapy has been designed for people who are already severely ill with Covid, for whom the vaccines are too late.
Co-lead researcher Professor Nigel McMillan from MHIQ said the groundbreaking treatment prevents the virus from replicating and may even put a stop to Covid-related deaths across the world.
‘Essentially, it’s a seek-and-destroy mission,’ he said. ‘We can specifically destroy the virus that grows in someone’s lungs.’
The treatment has only been trialled in rodents and therefore exactly how effective or safe it will be in humans remains unknown.
But the researchers behind the therapy say they are confident ‘normal cells are completely unharmed by this treatment’. They hope it will be ready for rollout by 2023.
Professor Kevin Morris (left) Dr Adi Idris (second left), Professor Nigel McMillan (centre), Dr Arron Supramanin (second right) and Mr Yusif Idres (right), make up part the Griffith University COVID-19 antiviral research team
‘Essentially, it’s a seek-and-destroy mission,’ Prof McMillan said. ‘We can specifically destroy the virus that grows in someone’s lungs’
Pictured: A graphic shows the RNA medicine can stop the Covid-19 virus from replicating
‘This is a technology that works with small pieces of RNA that can specifically bind to the genome of the virus,’ Professor McMillan said.
‘This binding causes the genome to not work anymore and in fact it causes the cells to destroy it.’
Although there have been other antiviral treatments such as Zanamivir and Remdesivir which have reduced symptoms and allowed coronavirus patients to recover faster, this is the first treatment to directly stop the virus.
The medicine needs to be delivered into the bloodstream via injection in something called a ‘nanoparticle’.
‘These nanoparticles go to the lungs and fuse into the cells delivering the RNA,’ Prof McMillan said.
‘The RNA seeks out the virus and it destroys its genome, so the virus can no longer replicate.’
Scientists have been working on the treatment since April last year, as Australia was ordered into a nationwide shutdown for six weeks.
Scientists have been working on the treatment since April last year, as Australia was ordered into a nationwide shutdown for six weeks. Pictured: Technicians prepare Pfizer vaccines at the newly opened COVID-19 Vaccination Centre in Sydney
The University of Griffith treatment is now set to enter the next phase of clinical trials and it is expected to be made available by 2023. Pictured: Technicians prepare Pfizer vaccines at the newly opened COVID-19 Vaccination Centre in Sydney
There have been more than 165 million cases of coronavirus, including 3.4 million deaths, across the world since the virus first emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan.
The University of Griffith treatment is now set to enter the next phase of clinical trials and it is expected to be made available by 2023.