Coronavirus Treatment: Baricitinib the Drug of Hope

Uk Based Artificial Intelligence Company BenevolentAI claims that one already available medicine can be used potentially to stop deadly coronavirus infection spread. After 563 deaths (Up to Wednesday 05/02/2020) from current coronavirus outbreak in china, scientist at least found hope of treating coronavirus infection. Till now there is no vaccine available to prevent coronavirus infection and there is no medicine found effective against coronavirus infection. So this news could help to conserve drug researchers’ time and resources to limit current coronavirus outbreak.


Genome Sequence and Receptor for 2019-nCoV

In mid-January 2020 china researchers published the first genomic sequence of the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV. By 29th January 2020 scientists suggested that Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (a cell-surface protein on cells in the kidney, blood vessels, heart, and, importantly, lung AT2 alveolar epithelial cells) is functional receptor for the 2019-nCo to invade human cells.

Drug that can stop 2019-nCoV

Scientists from the Artificial Intelligence based drug discovery Company BenevolentAI and Imperial College London reported they have used AI software to find drug that might limit 2019-nCoV’s ability to infect people and found an already-approved drug Baricitinib. They identified Baricitinib, which is predicted to reduce the ability of the virus to infect lung cells.

Baricitinib, The Hope

Baricitinib is one of the first once-daily oral selective JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitors for the treatment of moderate-to-severe active rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Baricitinib is a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor that functions by inhibiting the activity of selective JAK1 and JAK2 enzymes, which interfere with the JAK-STAT signalling pathway.

How Baricitinib can act on coronavirus

Most viruses enter cells through receptor-mediated endocytosis. One of the known regulators of endocytosis is the AP2-associated protein kinase 1 (AAK1). Disruption of AAK1 might, in turn, interrupt the passage of the virus into cells and also the intracellular assembly of virus particles.

Out of 378 AAK1 inhibitors, one of the six high-affinity AAK1-binding drugs was the janus kinase inhibitor Baricitinib, which also binds the cyclin G-associated kinase, another regulator of endocytosis. Because the plasma concentration of Baricitinib on therapeutic dosing (either as 2 mg or 4 mg once daily) is sufficient to inhibit AAK1, BenevolentAI researchers suggest it could be trialed, using an appropriate patient population with 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease, to reduce both the viral entry and the inflammation in patients.


BenevolentAI also caution that their suggestion should not be taken as medical advice about 2019-nCoV treatment or prevention. It’s also written in their published paper that they published their research “to assist in the global response” to the virus.


So, after appropriate clinical trial, if there is convincing results that recommend Baricitinab is the drug of choice in coronavirus infection, the drug can be used by physicians to treat coronavirus infected patients.

Dr Mohammad Shakiluzzaman (MBBS, FIPM)
Biography of Author


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