Scientists at the School of Biosciences of the University of Kent and the Institute of Medical Virology at Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, have identified a novel therapy, benfooxythiamine, which hinders the SARS-CoV-2 replication.

All viruses, including coronaviruses, multiply by entering the cells and reprogramming them to make new viruses.

The Covid-19 infected cells can create new coronaviruses only by activating their metabolic pentose phosphate pathway, the findings showed.

An inhibitor of this pathway, benfooxythiamine was found to hinder SARS-CoV-2 replication with infected cells that did not create new viruses.

Furthermore, the scientists found that the therapy boosted the antiviral activity of the ‘2-deoxy-D-glucose’ drug that alters the metabolism of the host cell to inhibit the growth of the virus.

This suggests that inhibitors of the pentose phosphate pathway, such as benfooxythiamine, could become a promising therapy option to treat Covid-19, as monotherapy and in conjunction with other medicines.

Kent School of Biosciences professor Martin Michaelis said: “This is a breakthrough in the research of Covid-19 treatment.

“Since resistance development is a big problem in the treatment of viral diseases, having therapies that use different targets is very important and provides further hope for developing the most effective treatments for Covid-19.”

The antiviral mechanism of benfooxythiamin varies from remdesivir and molnupiravir, other Covid-19 treatments. As a result, viruses that are resistant to these therapeutics could be sensitive to benfooxythiamin.

Goethe-University Frankfurt professor Jindrich Cinatl said: “Targeting virus-induced changes in the host cell metabolism is an attractive way to interfere specifically with the virus replication process.”

In March, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and universities in California, Delaware and Germany and Merck identified a compound, berzosertib, which demonstrated potential in treating Covid-19.