Scientists claim antibiotics already on the market can treat coronavirus

Scientists believe antibiotics already available on the market may be the key to treating coronavirus.

The outbreak has spread like wildfire with more than 82,000 infected in about 50 countries and more than 2,800 people dead.

A team of researchers at Norwegian University of Science and Technology had anti-virals as well as four antibiotics that treat staph and skin infections have been able to stop the virus in lab tests.

Therefore, they believe the medications could be a first-line treatment for the highly-contagious disease. 

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned that antibiotics do not work against viruses and that over-prescribing and overusing them helps to fuel superbugs. 

Using antibiotics to treat viruses like coronavirus could lead to antibiotic resistance and fuel superbugs, the CDC and the WHO have warned. Pictured: A nurse checks on a coronavirus patient in an intensive care unit at a hospital in Wuhan, China, February 22

Drug repurposing occurs when doctors use drugs that are approved for one disease to treat another condition.  

For example, Viagra – the little blue pill that treats erectile dysfunction – was repurposed twice. It was first approved to treat high blood pressure and then to treat angina, a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart.

And dextroamphetamine, prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has been used in the treatment of dementia.       

‘Drug repurposing is a strategy for generating additional value from an existing drug by targeting diseases other than that for which it was originally intended,’ said senior author Dr Denis Kainov, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in a press release.

‘For example, teicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin and monensin are approved antibiotics that have been shown to inhibit corona- and other viruses in the laboratory.’

The majority of the drugs that the team suggest be repurposed are antivirals, which are medications that reduce the ability of viruses to multiply.

They include nitazaxonide, an anti-parasitic medication; mycophenolic acid, used to prevent transplanted organ rejection; and Remdesivir, originally conceived as a drug to fight Ebola. 

Dr Kainnov says one of the advantages of repurposing a drug rather than developing a new one is that all of the details surrounding the medication’s development are already known.

Researchers say 31 antivirals and antibiotics may help treat coronavirus. Grey shading indicates that the antiviral activity has not been either studied or reported.

Researchers say 31 antivirals and antibiotics may help treat coronavirus. Grey shading indicates that the antiviral activity has not been either studied or reported.

He argues this saves both money and time. 

‘Therefore, repositioning of launched or even failed drugs to viral diseases provides unique translational opportunities,’ he said.

‘[This includes] a substantially higher probability of success to market as compared with developing new virus-specific drugs and vaccines, and a significantly reduced cost and timeline to clinical availability.’ 

Researchers said they found 120 drugs already proven to be safe for humans to use. 

Of those drugs, they determined 31 to be the best possible candidates for prevention and treatment of coronavirus. reached out to the researchers, who were not immediately available for comment.

At least four of the 31 drugs – teicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin and monensin – designed to fight bacterial infections.

However, major health organizations including the CDC and the WHO have, for years, attempted to inform and remind doctors and the public in no uncertain terms that antibiotics are not capable of killing viruses like the one that causes COVID-19.

‘Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus? No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria,’ the WHO’s website clearly states. 

Viruses have different structures and replicate differently than bacteria, meaning bacterial pneumonia won’t replicate in the body the same way the flu will.

Antibiotics target the growth machinery in bacteria to stop them from being able to reproduce. 

Viruses don’t have this internal machinery, so this weapon, of course, wouldn’t work on them. 

Health experts say that taking antibiotics when you have a viral infection could kill of beneficial bacteria, promote antibiotic-resistance and raise superbug infection risks.

‘If you take an antibiotic when you actually have a viral infection, the antibiotic attacks bacteria in your body – bacteria that are either beneficial or at least not causing disease,’ the Mayo Clinic states on its website.

‘This misdirected treatment can then promote antibiotic-resistant properties in harmless bacteria that can be shared with other bacteria, or create an opportunity for potentially harmful bacteria to replace the harmless ones.’