Drugs that fight MERS: Leiden researchers make progress

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The Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) has found four existing medicines that could fight the MERS-corona virus in cell cultures. There are not yet any successful vaccinations or medical treatments for the deadly virus. 

The LUMC worked together with the Erasmus MC and the University of Leuven, testing 348 medicines already on the market for other ailments.

The researchers looked at how the medicines worked in cells infected with the MERS virus and found four that could inhibit relatively low concentrations of the virus. These are the malaria medicine Chloroquine, the antipsychotic Chlorpromazine, the HIV inhibitor Lopinavir and the anti-diarrhea medicine Loperamide, which is available at pharmacies.

These medicines have not been tested on people or animals, and it is therefore not known if they have the same virus-inhibiting effects in animals or humans. A dosage size has also not yet been determined.

Because the medicines are on the market already, it could make them more quickly available as soon as they are adapted to fight MERS. "The preliminary phase becomes a lot shorter if you already know how a medicine behaves, what the side-effects are and what dosage you can use", says professor Eric Snijder of the LUMC.

MERS infections can cause serious airway complaints, especially in people with existing health problems. Last week, the first two MERS cases were confirmed in the Netherlands. The patients had both recently traveled back from Saudi Arabia.

The virus appeared in the Middle East in 2012 as well. In Saudi Arabia, the virus has been spreading in the last few weeks, and around 150 people have already died from it.


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