Hepatitis C drugs shown to inhibit coronavirus enzyme


Researchers looked at several well-known drug molecules for potential repurposing efforts. These included three hepatitis C protease inhibitors: telaprevir, narlaprevir and boceprevir.


  • Several Hepatitis C drugs have been found to inhibit a crucial protein enzyme in the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. 
  • Once it has entered the human cell using its spike protein, the coronavirus uses an enzyme called the main protease to replicate
  • The coronavirus expresses long chains of compounds, which must be cut by the main protease to become functional proteins
  • Inhibiting the functioning of the main protease, therefore, is vital to stopping the virus from spreading in patients with Covid-19.
  • The researchers performed room-temperature X-ray measurements to build a three-dimensional map of chemical bonds formed between the protease and the drug molecules. 
  • The experiments yielded promising results for certain hepatitis C drugs in their ability to bind and inhibit the main protease — particularly boceprevir and narlaprevir.
  • The study used a technique called in vitro enzyme kinetics. This enables researchers to study the protease and the inhibitor in a test tube to measure the inhibitor’s binding affinity with the protease. 
  • The higher the binding affinity, the more effective the inhibitor is at blocking the protease from functioning.
  • The study also sheds light on a peculiar behaviour of the protease’s ability to change or adapt its shape according to the size and structure of the inhibitor molecule it binds to. 
  • Pockets within the protease where a drug molecule would attach are highly flexible, and can either open or close to an extent.
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