08/10 News Flash 2: Coronavirus RNA proofreading: molecular basis and therapeutic targeting

Image courtesy of Needpix.

COVID-19 has exposed the absence of effective antiviral treatment for human coronaviruses. The principal mechanism of infiltration for these RNA viruses involves introducing RNA into the host, which is eventually transcribed into DNA. Once transcription has occurred, this DNA is replicated, forming the well-known double-helix. Many existing viral treatments aim to disrupt these processes by inserting nucleoside analogues, or “look-alike” nucleosides that terminate the nascent RNA or DNA chains. However, coronaviruses have an extensive capacity to proofread and remove mismatched nucleotides during replication and transcription. As a result, when it comes to this type of virus, existing NA treatments aren’t as effective. 

Currently, researchers are exploring the idea of existing NAs and newly discovered genomic techniques as potential treatments. These could be used either individually or in combination to help combat COVID-19 and increase the barrier to drug resistance.