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Meharry doctor says COVID-19 drug stops virus from spreading

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Posted at 4:56 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 19:44:39-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Meharry Medical College's new COVID-19 fighting drug could soon go into testing as the lead researcher says it stops the spread of the virus inside the body.

The reagent works by entering and waiting inside of cells for three to five days and when COVID-19 enters the cells, it prevents the virus from replicating.

The theory was the idea of Dr. Donald Alcendor, an associate professor at Meharry, an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt and a leading expert on HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Alcendor dropped his previous research to study coronavirus. Currently, at Meharry tests are happening on a cousin to COVID-19, but Dr. Alcendor believes the first of four phases of testing will begin soon.

“When the virus gets inside the cell, the protein layer around the virus somewhat opens up and allows the virus to drift inside the cytoplasm," said Dr. Alcendor. "Our reagent will interact with the virus at that moment so that if you interact at a very early stage, there’s no downstream viral proteins that are going to be made. So, it will shut replication down at the earliest stages and there are no viruses going to be made. We shut the virus down completely.”

Right now trials are happening at a lab in Brazil on COVID-19 cells.

Dr. James Hildreth, CEO of Meharry, said the global scientific community has postponed much of its research to fight this global threat.

"One of my collaborators, we've been working a long time together. In parallel, they're actually taking the same compound we're taking, we're using model viruses in our research, they're using actual viruses isolated from patients and we're going to try to accelerate the discovery process by having those two things working in parallel," said Dr. Hildreth.

Dr. Hildreth said he believes a drug will likely be released before a vaccine.