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Researchers identify small molecules that block COVID-19

Date: 15 June 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


The team of researchers have identified that a set of small molecules that can block the activity of a key protein in SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19, a finding that provides a promising path for new therapeutics for the disease.



Antiviral drugs are a class of medication used for treating viral infections. Most anti-virals target specific viruses, while a broad-spectrum antiviral is effective against a wide range of viruses. Unlike most antibiotics, antiviral drugs do not destroy their target pathogen; instead they inhibit their development.



  • The researchers noted that the SARS-CoV-2 protein PLpro is essential for the replication and the ability of the virus to suppress host immune function.

  • The compounds, naphthalene-based PLpro inhibitors, are shown to be effective at halting SARS-CoV-2 PLpro activity as well as replication.

  • The researchers explored inhibitors designed to knock out PLpro and stop the replication of the virus. They began with a series of compounds that were discovered 12 years ago and shown to be effective against SARS, but development was cut short since SARS had not reappeared.

  • The compounds offer a potential rapid development path to generating PLpro-targeted therapeutics for use against SARS-CoV-2.

  • The kind of small molecules that are being developed are some of the first that are specifically designed for the coronavirus protease.

  • Up till now, most therapeutic work against SARS has targeted another virulence factor, C3Lpro.The aim is to turn this into a starting point for creating a drug.

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