COVID-19: Why it is Taking So Much Time for Designing Drugs?

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (yellow), isolated from a patient sample. Image credit: NIAID 

It has been claimed that the coronavirus has about 30 proteins which are small compared to human cells (humans have more than 20,000). Due to this small number of proteins in a cell, coronavirus can’t reproduce on their own. So, to get around with this limited set of tools they cleverly turn the human body against itself. Though the pathways into the human cell are locked to invaders from outside, the coronavirus uses its own protein to open these locks of human cells and they enter into the human cells. Once viruses get inside the cell they use the resources and mechanism of the cell and produce thousands of viruses that will eventually lead to the death of the cell. This process is simply hijacking the human cell and turning it into a production factory of coronavirus.

As lung cells express high amounts of lock protein, SARS-CoV-2 uses for entry, they are particularly more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2. This will enforce a large number of lung cells to die and so the person associated with COVID-19 starts felling a respiratory symptom. And also these viruses get so much mutated over time from SARS that none of the drugs that work for SARS are working. So, some researchers are now searching for the drug that could hold the coronavirus from entering into the cell of humans. For this, they are particularly testing the existing potential drugs in the laboratory environment and this will certainly take time.

How to fight for COVID-19 “hijackers”?

Depending on the fact that drugs could attack the virus's own protein, a drug "remdesivir" designed by the National Institute of Health (NIH) is currently in a clinical trial and thought to be a potential drug to fight back against COVID-19. The fear with this approach is that over time viruses mutate and change so the same level of drug "remdesivir" will slowly become invulnerable to the mutated viruses and again new pandemic like SARS-CoV-2 may arise in near future.

Another alternative way to cure viruses is by designing a drug that can work by blocking a viral protein from interacting with a human protein. This approach of protecting host machinery has a greater advantage over disabling the virus because the human cell doesn’t change fast.

This second approach is the way that the team of QCRG is seeking and they are working on this thinking that a good drug should keep working.