A study revealed that 5-amino levulinic acid (5-ALA) inhibits SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. As 5-ALA is safe to use as it is a natural amino acid found in plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. When eight molecules of 5-ALA combine it forms protoporphyrin IX which generates heme when combined with a ferrous ion. Recent studies have shown antiviral properties of 5-ALA against dengue and Zika virus. The potency of 5-ALA against SARS-CoV-2 was tested in VeroE6 where the virus was propagated.
The study revealed that when the VeroE6 cells were treated with 5-ALA for 72 hours before infection, it prevented SARS-CoV-2 infection. A shorter pre-treatment of 48 hours did not prevent the infection. Adding sodium ferrous citrate along with 5-ALA also prevented the infection. The researchers suggested that a G-quadruplex structure could be a potential target of the antivirals and compounds binding to it could inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection. G4 is a tetrahelical structure formed by guanine-rich regions of DNA or RNA and is also found in coronaviruses.
SARS-CoV-2 genome has G4 structures with a SARS unique macrodomain like motif in its non-structural protein-3 which could be a potential target for antiviral drugs. Heme, a 5-ALA metabolite is known to complex with G4 structures. It could target the viral protein and inhibit SARS-CoV-2.
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