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Hong Kong scientists say the antimicrobial drug is successful against the coronavirus

An inexpensive antimicrobial drug used to treat stomach ulcers and bacterial infections has shown promise in combating coronavirus in animals, Hong Kong scientists announced Monday.

The researchers set out to explore whether metallodrugs – metal-containing compounds most commonly used against bacteria – might also have antiviral properties that could fight the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Using Syrian hamsters as test subjects, they found that one of the drugs, ranitidine bismuth citrate (RBC), was “a potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 agent”.

“RBC is able to reduce the viral load in the infected hamster̵

7;s lung by tenfold,” Runming Wang, a researcher at the University of Hong Kong, told reporters on Monday as the team presented their study.

“Our results demonstrate that RBC is a potential antiviral agent for Covid-19.”

The coronavirus has killed more than a million people since it first emerged in China last December and then spread around the world.

As scientists scramble to find a vaccine, they have also sifted through readily available drugs that could alleviate symptoms caused by Covid-19 disease or help the body fight infections.

Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral drug, and dexamethasone, a type of corticosteroid, have both been identified as having some success against the virus. Both were used by doctors to treat US President Donald Trump after he contracted Covid-19.

But they have drawbacks.

Remdesivir is expensive and there is a global shortage while dexamethasone has immunosuppressive effects that are risky for all but the sickest patients. Other drug cocktails have shown that liver damage can be a risk.

Scientists from Hong Kong said RBC is a commonly available drug used against gastric ulcers with a safe and comprehensive drug profile.

“It’s been around for decades, so it’s pretty safe,” Wang said.

They added that their research, which was published in the journal Nature Microbiology, suggested that other metallodrugs may also be successful against the virus and should be explored further.

jta / qan

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