Scientists discover new drugs against COVID by virtual screening and UV analyses


Thanks to vaccines, the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, and now it’s possible to experience a normal life after two years of severe restrictions. However, despite the success of the vaccination, the research for new drugs against COVID is still an urgent matter.

Three professors from the University of Napoli “Federico II”, Jussara Amato, Bruno Pagano, and Federica Moraca, applied with their co-authors an innovative approach to identify new drugs against SARS-CoV-2 infections. This approach consists of a virtual screening of drugs already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which might prove effective against SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, the authors set their target on the virus’ genome instead of its surface proteins, as typically happens with most antivirals. The SARS-CoV-2 genome can fold into specific structures called G-quadruplexes, which constitute a potential therapeutic target. Ultraviolet (UV)-based analyses, realised at the IUVS beamline, available at the Italian CERIC Partner Facility at the Elettra Synchrotron in Trieste, allowed to investigate how drugs bind to the RNA structures of the virus.

With such an innovative method, the authors identified three drugs, already approved by the FDA, that can be employed to treat SARS-CoV-2 infections. Another aspect of the virtual screening applied in this research is that it allows for a fast and low-cost screening process. This work lays the basis for future clinical studies to evaluate the antiviral activity of such drugs and could also prove impactful for targeting viral RNA beyond SARS-CoV-2.