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How scientists are working to fight new COVID variants

"There is no silver bullet to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic."

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The algorithm was coupled with in vitro data and other resources in the study. (Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels)

By James Gamble via SWNS

Some of the world's top scientists have teamed up to develop an algorithm that selects existing drugs suitable for being repurposed to fight new COVID-19 variants and prevent future pandemics.

The team, comprised of experts from across the globe, developed the biological tool in order to better prepare against potential mutations in coronavirus.

The Phenotype Simulator (PHENSIM) simulates COVID-19 infections before performing experiments to identify drugs that could be candidates for repurposing.

The diverse team, set up to develop innovative strategies to address COVID-19, hopes the PHENSIM could prove powerful in aiding the selection of drugs for repurposing.

The global research group, comprised of immunologists, biologists, chemists, data scientists, game theorists, geneticists, mathematicians, and physicians from across Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, conceived the idea of repurposing existing drugs to fight back against diseases.

The team, known as RxCovea, acknowledges the daunting challenge COVID-19 has posed over the past three years.

And even though vaccines and good hygienic practices have somewhat lessened the disease's severity, the virus continues to spread and take lives across the world.

(Leeloo Thefirst via Pexels)

The ease of spread is due in part to COVID-19's ability to rapidly diversify in its target cells, immune-response pathways and modes of transmission which make traditional approaches to drug design less effective - compounded by the fact that the virus co-infects with other pathogens like colds and flu.

In recognition of the fact that current methods have left us chasing the virus, the team developed a biology tool that simulates tissue-specific infections of host cells of SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID-19 - and performs a series of computer experiments to identify drugs that could be candidates for repurposing.

The paper's lead author, Naomi Maria, an immunologist and visiting scientist at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, explained: "There is no silver bullet to defeat the COVID pandemic as it takes us over a public-health roller-coaster of deaths and devastation.

"However, using this AI tool, coupled with in vitro data and other resources, we’ve been able to model the SARS-CoV-2 infection and identify several COVID-19 drugs currently available as potentially effective in battling the next outbreak."

(Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels)

The PHENSIM's complicated algorithm calculates the antiviral effects of existing drugs.

To prove the validity of the tool, the team also compared its results with other recently published scientific studies done in labs.

Bud Mishra, a professor at New York University’s Courant and another of the paper’s senior authors, said: "Drug repurposing strategies provide an attractive and effective approach for quickly targeting potential new interventions.

“Identifying and selecting ahead of time the best candidates, prior to costly and laborious in vitro and in vivo experiments and ensuing clinical trials could significantly improve disease-specific drug development.”

The RxCovea team hopes their new tool could help develop combative methods against future COVID-19 variants and pandemic-causing diseases.

The study was published in the journal Heliyon.

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