Dr. Mark Kimani, a lecturer at the Department of Physical Sciences, University of Embu, in collaboration with international researchers has identified natural products (molecules from natural sources) that can be used in the fight against SARS-Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Their research forms part of the early stages in drug development, that is the search for molecules that can cure or reduce the effects of a disease on a patient. In this research, they sought to identify compounds capable of blocking an important enzyme involved in the replication of SARS-Cov2 (Mpro) in the host, therefore, interfering with the lifecycle of the virus and the eventual cure of the patient.
The study used a database of 550 molecules from plants found in the semiarid region of Bahia in Brazil, generated by researchers from the State University of Feira de Santana-BA. These molecules are isolated and chemically characterized secondary metabolites from common plants in the region. The molecules were then subjected to a virtual screening (sieving) where some of the compounds that could not be used clinically because they have undesired properties, for example, toxicity were swiftly excluded from the study. This led to the identification of 10 molecules that can be potential drugs against COVID-19. Through protein-molecule interaction studies, two molecules out of the potential 10 molecules were found to be highly promising as protein inhibitors and can be studied further to determine their potency and efficacy in killing the virus or preventing its multiplication. These results are inspiring since these compounds are isolated from plants that are abundant in the Brazilian flora and form a basis for further studies.
The results of this study are published in the prestigious International Journal of Molecular Sciences (https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/21/11739; Impact Factor 5.924). The article entitled “Natural Products-Based Drug Design Against SARS-CoV-2 Mpro 3CLpro” was authored by Dr. Kimani from the University of Embu (UoEm, Kenya) in partnership with researchers from the Federal University of Amapá (UNIFAP, Brazil); the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA, Brazil); Graduate Program on Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Modeling at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA, Brazil); Department of Chemistry at the University of São Paulo (USP Ribeirão Preto, Brazil); and Department of Pharmaceutical and Organic Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Campus of Cartuja, University of Granada (UGR, Spain).