The University of Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis presented its development – a new drug prevents COVID-19 from infecting human cells, writes Newswise. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to the researchers, the MM3122 compound will prevent infection or reduce the severity of COVID-19 when used in the early stages of the disease.

Infection occurs due to the capture of cells by the virus in the epithelium of the respiratory tract. In this case, the TMPRSS2 protein, which is located on the cell surface, cuts the spike protein of the virus, activating it. As a result, the viral and cell membranes join together and an infection develops.

The new drug blocks the enzymatic activity of the TMPRSS2 protein, which disrupts the activation of the spike protein and inhibits membrane fusion.

The study showed that the new substance protects cells from viral damage better than remdesivir, which is approved in the United States for emergency use in the treatment of COVID-19.

Scientists are also convinced that the drug can be used with equal effectiveness against the original severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Work is ongoing on an improved compound that could be taken as tablets, drops or sprays to deliver the drug directly to the nasal passages and lungs.