Photo Credit: Own work via Wikimedia
Prof. Shmuel C. Shapira MD MPH, IIBR Director General

Derivatives of two drugs designed to treat Gaucher’s disease have been shown to be effective against Coronavirus (COVID-19) and may be useful in future outbreaks, the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Ness Ziona revealed Tuesday (Antiviral activity of Glucosylceramide synthase inhibitors against SARS-CoV-2 and other RNA virus infections).

As part of efforts at the IIBR to detect large-scale effective antiviral drugs, the Institute’s scientists have tested two drug derivatives, originally developed for patients with Gaucher’s disease.


One of the substances tested is a derivative of the Cerdelga, which has already received FDA approval and is administered to Gaucher patients, and the second drug is in advanced approval stages.

Gaucher disease is the result of a buildup of fatty substances in organs, particularly the spleen and liver. This causes the organs to enlarge and can affect their function. The fatty substances also can build up in bone tissue, weakening the bone and increasing the risk of fractures.

Treatment of a new disease, such as COVID-19, using an existing, approved drug can be a short-term solution, as one of the major challenges in developing a new drug is the prolonged-time period it takes for the research phase to produce a human-approved drug, the IIBR explained.

In the study, during which the drugs were tested on cell cultures, the use of the derivatives of both drugs led to a significant reduction in the replication capacity of the Coronavirus, a process that leads to the destruction and mortality of the infected cell. This decreased process prevents cell damage after infection with the Coronavirus.

The two drugs are now in the stage of evaluating their effectiveness as a treatment for animals infected with COVID-19.

The IIBR noted that these drugs were found to be effective against a number of different strains of viruses, including influenza viruses and West Nile fever, and were already tested on animals, which is an indication that these drugs have the potential to treat various viral diseases and against future outbreaks if clinically approved.

Since these are approved drug derivatives and a drug in advanced approval stages, the effectiveness of these drugs in patients with generalized viral diseases and COVID-19, in particular, can be relatively quickly examined and made more readily available.

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