UF researcher finds leprosy drug could be used in fight against COVID-19 variant

Florida is leading the country when it comes to United Kingdom variant cases of COVID-19.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 738 people have tested positive for the strain in our state.

Central Florida researchers now working on ways to slow it down.

"Just think, some mutations help the virus improve its fitness, some do not," said University of Florida Associate Professor of Pathology David Ostrov. He’s been studying the genetic mutations within the UK strain.

He is trying to find out what makes it more transmissible and possibly more deadly.  During his research, he said he zeroed in on a pattern for how it replicates. Like a camping tent, the virus has to be assembled and disassembled during its life cycle.

"What these mutations appear to be doing is taking down all the legs at the same time -- so you can take down the tent faster," Dr. Ostrov explained.

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That means it can spread to other people faster.  However, Dr. Ostrov said he has identified drugs already on the market that could attack and slow it down.

"This drug used to treat leprosy was one of the candidates," he said.

The UF professor hopes to test out those drug candidates, which could eventually lead to better treatment and prevention of the U.K. strain.

It could be a breakthrough in fighting this variant, which experts say may become the most prevalent strain in the United States by the end of this month.


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