An osteoporosis drug reduces coronavirus infection by 85 per cent in human cells, say scientists, opening the door to a quick new treatment for the condition.

The widely used drug apilimod is one of 13 new medications that have been found to fight coronavirus when scientists screened nearly 12,000 treatment to see if any could battle Covid-19.

Repurposing drugs is a fast way to find new treatments because safety concerns have already been addressed, which speeds up their availability.

Other drugs discovered to have anti-Covid-19 properties include an HIV medication called R 82913, and a diabetes treatment.

Advertisement

A drug developed to treat autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's disease may also be effective, the scientists conclude in a paper published in the journal Nature.

The drugs were tested for their ability to prevent top Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, from replicating in human lung tissue.

Apilimod was found to have the largest effect of all, reducing the number of infected cells by 85 per cent.

Osteoporosis drug apilimod has shown promising results against Covid 19. Photo / 123RF
Osteoporosis drug apilimod has shown promising results against Covid 19. Photo / 123RF

The study was carried out by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, in California.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds School of Medicine, said: "As the pandemic continues to afflict much of the planet, it is clear that having as many weapons in our arsenal to combat this virus is of paramount importance."

Professor Ian Jones, professor of virology, at the University of Reading, added: "This study is a tour de force of the ability to rapidly screen existing drugs for their ability to inhibit coronavirus.

"The advantage of this approach is that the drugs are already in use for other conditions so could be repurposed immediately for use in Covid cases.

"The disadvantage of any of these drugs, however, is that they need to be given as early as possible in order to stop the damage done by the virus but, as mild symptoms are common, at least in early infection, any therapies used are not initiated until an individual is hospitalised, which is a bit late."

Advertisement

The findings were published in the journal Nature.