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Veterinarians Might Be On Cutting Edge of Helping to Treat COVID-19


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A relief to pet owners: there’s no evidence that companion animals such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

Corona viruses aren’t new to veterinarians. They sometimes treat canine corona virus, And for decades veterinarians have been unable to treat a mutation of the of the otherwise benign feline corona virus which occurs inside some cats and transforms from that benign virus into an immune mediated disease called feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Dr. Niels Pedersen, distinguished professor University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine spoke at the recent Winn Feline Foundation Symposium Purrsuing FIP and Winning last November 16-17 at UC Davis.

Pedersen – who took years (with colleagues) to understand FIP – with funding from Winn Feline approached Gillead Sciences, Inc. and demonstrated in clinical trials that a compound called GS-441524 (very similar to the experimental human drug, Remdesivir) can actually treat FIP.  However, Gillead wouldn’t let go of their patent, allowing the compound to be used in veterinary medicine.

Dr. Pedersen persevered in conjunction with collaborators at Kansas State University. That effort was led by Yunjeong Kim, a virologist in the College of Veterinary Medicine, who also attended the symposium. Dr. Kim and her colleagues created a similar antiviral compound — known as GC376 — which also proved to have a high degree of success in treating the wet form of FIP.

Dr. David Bruyette, Chief Medical Officer of Anivive Lifesciences of Long Beach, CA, announced at the symposium that the company is in the process of procuring FDA approval for GC376 to treat FIP. However, seeing it come to market could be a long way off, though the company is attempting to “fast track” with the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to accept GC376 for Minor Use for Minor Species (MUMS) approval.

Pedersen – who knows as much about corona viruses as about anyone on the planet – suggests these drugs perhaps could help people.

Filling a void to help cats – since there is no approved drug at this moment – are several Chinese companies, Mutian is the most well-known, and the company offers a black market product to cat caretakers. Anecdotally, at least the Mutian product does successfully treat cats with FIP. Might a similar compound help people? It’s a possibility that the Chinese company is also investigating.

No surprise, some veterinarians are on the front lines of helping government agencies to address the problem of the new human corona virus COVID-19.

Antiviral meds aren’t easy to create, otherwise we would have effective anti-virals. However, the U.S. does have some compounds which were created to treat Ebola and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and MERS-CoV. SARS and MERS-CoV are corona viruses.

Researchers at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine are working on a drug to treat COVID-19. “It’s highly likely that what we are producing will be quite protective against COVID-19,” cheers Gus Kousoulas, PhD, head of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at LSU. Kousoulas said the department’s primary focus is infectious diseases. He added they have already isolated the major genes of the COVID-19.

Kousoulas said “They are ready to be sent to the Tulane primate center as well as other sites throughout the state to be tested,” he added.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is a great resource regarding the virus and companion animals.

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