The Brazilian snake Jararacuçu is responsible for 90% of the poisonings caused by bites in Brazil, according to Fiocruz (Osvaldo Cruz Foundation). The reptile is feared here, but scientists at the Chemistry Institute (IQ), Unesp (São Paulo State University Júlio de Mesquita Filho), in Araraquara, discovered that its poison is capable of inhibiting the action of the reptile. coronavirus.
In the laboratory, the researchers separated a peptide (piece of protein) from the venom and applied it to monkey cells. After one hour, SARS-CoV-2 was placed in the experiment. Scientists found that the ability of the covid-19 virus to reproduce had dropped 75%. The essay was published in an article in the international scientific journal Molecules, last week.
The discovery could help produce a drug to treat people infected with covid-19. The challenge for researchers is to produce an effective drug against the disease, but that does not generate adverse reactions for those who use it.
For the Unesp website, Eduardo Maffud Cilli, a professor at IQ and one of the authors of the work, stated that the first results were encouraging. “We found a peptide that is not toxic to cells, but that inhibits virus replication. With that, if the compound becomes a medicine in the future, the organism would gain time to act and create the necessary antibodies, since the virus would be with its infection speed compromised and would not advance in the organism”, he said.
Jararacuçu is the second largest snake in Brazil and its poisoning causes hemorrhage, swelling and destroys tissues in the region of the bite. In addition to Brazil, the snake is found in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. Around here, she lives in the South and Southeast regions, in addition to the states of Bahia and Mato Grosso do Sul.
The experiment was possible, based on a study, also by the Chemistry Institute at Unesp, which found that the snake’s peptide had antibacterial activity, which motivated them to carry out new tests to assess whether it could also act on viral particles.
At first, the effects were not so positive, but after changes in the chemical structure of the molecule synthesized in the IQ, the antiviral activity was more effective. The efficiency of the peptide was tested at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB) of USP, in São Paulo, where there is an isolated sample of the coronavirus.
The next step is to assess the effectiveness of different dosages of the peptide and what effects they may have on the cell, such as protection, preventing the virus from even invading it. After the end of these tests, the researchers hope to advance to the pre-clinical stage, in which the effectiveness of the peptide to treat animals infected by the new coronavirus will be studied.