Picolinic acid can block Covid, flu viruses: Study

The researchers said that picolinic acid led to an increase in the number of immune cells in the animals.  

Published: 19th July 2023 09:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th July 2023 09:05 AM   |  A+A-

Covid, Coronavirus, Covid vaccine, Monoclonal antibody therapy

Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

By Express News Service

BENGALURU: Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have discovered that picolinic acid, a natural compound produced by mammalian cells, can block several disease-causing viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza A.

The study highlighted how the acid can disrupt the entry of enveloped viruses into host cells and prevent infection of various viral diseases, making it an effective antiviral. The study found that it can reduce viral load in the lungs when given to animals infected with Covid and influenza. The researchers said that picolinic acid led to an increase in the number of immune cells in the animals.  

Published in the Cell Reports Medicine, the study found that picolinic acid is known to help in the absorption of zinc and other trace elements from our gut. However, the acid is in its natural form, it stays inside the body only for a short duration and is usually excreted quickly, but has antiviral activity.
The researchers stumbled upon picolinic acid while studying endocytosis, which is a cellular process often coopted by viruses and bacteria to enter human cells. When they decided to test the acid’s antiviral potential, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. 

“Coincidentally, the pandemic emerged during the study. So, we extended our research to examine its impact on SARS-CoV-2 and found it to be even more potent in this context,” explained corresponding author Shashank Tripathi, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research (CIDR) at IISc.  

How picolinic acid works 

A large majority of human viruses with high prevalence and pandemic potential are enveloped viruses. Along with a protein coat, they have an extra outer membrane made of lipids derived from the host to help them enter the cells. 

Generally, during their entry into host cells, the virus and host cell membrane fuse. The researchers found that picolinic acid blocks this fusion, which explains its effectiveness against a variety of viruses, including flaviviruses like the Zika virus and encephalitis virus. But it has no effect on non-enveloped viruses like rotavirus and coxsackievirus.  

Rohan Narayan, research associate in CIDR and first author of the paper, said, “Our current focus is on enhancing the compound’s efficacy, stability and absorption in the host body. We are seeking partnerships with pharmaceutical industries to facilitate its clinical development.” 

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