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New peptides could prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection

A nurse seen vaccinating a female frontline medical worker. Credit: SOPA Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

Researchers have designed a new class of peptides that can block SARS-CoV-2 from entering host cells1. The molecules bind to a viral protein and hinder its interaction with a specific receptor of host cells.

The peptides can be tailored to inhibit any protein-protein interactions between a host and the virus, opening up new ways to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, says a team at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

Current vaccines don’t protect against new SARS-CoV-2 variants. The virus uses a spike protein to enter host cells, so the scientists developed several peptides and assessed their efficiency in preventing the spike protein from binding to a host cell receptor.

The researchers, led by Jayanta Chatterjee and Somnath Dutta, found that the peptides bound to the spike protein and some formed dimers of the protein. One peptide, called SIH-5, bound more strongly than the others and formed a stable complex with the protein. The protein interacted with SIH-5 head to head, leaving no space for the host cell receptor to bind.

In SARS-CoV-2-infected hamsters, SIH-5 reduced viral load in the lungs, alleviated disease symptoms and prevented weight loss. This peptide can tolerate heat and remain stable for months when stored at room temperature.

The researchers say the peptides, which are smaller than antibodies, are likely to penetrate host tissues better. They can also stick to their targets for a very long time – a property essential for successful pharmacological agents.



  1. Khatri, B. et al. Nat. Chem. Biol. (2022) Doi:10.1038/s41589-022-01060-0

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

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