3CL Protease Inhibitors

3CL Protease Inhibitors: What are they and how do they help fight infections?

The year 2020 was the beginning of a devasting year for global health. The SARS-Cov-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19 and a broad spectrum of coronaviruses, infected hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world. Studies have shown that 3CL protease inhibitors help to stop the virus lifecycle and fight infections. So, what are 3CL protease inhibitors and how do they work?

How Do Viruses Infect our Bodies?

Simply put, viruses including the SARS-Cov-2 infect our bodies by attaching to our healthy cells to hijack our cell’s own mechanisms and make copies of itself. The hijacked cells then release the newly made virus to infect more of our cells.

What are Proteases?

Proteases are essentially proteins that are used to break down other certain chemical structures of protein in our bodies. On their own, proteases aren’t harmful. The process can help with digestion or with the breakdown of proteins involved in swelling and pain.

On the flip side, proteases are necessary for certain health conditions and viruses to thrive. The 3CL protease, is an essential enzyme found in coronaviruses, allowing viruses to penetrate the host cells to cause infection and make us sick. 

What are Protease Inhibitors?

Protease inhibitors, a class of medications also used to treat HIV and hepatitis C, have been shown to stop the viral life cycle. The first protease inhibitor to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was in December 1995.

Protease inhibitors are designed to tightly bind to the protease enzyme, helping to stop a virus’s ability to replicate itself, halting the spread in it tracks. 3CL protease inhibitors shut down COVID-19 and other coronavirus-making apparatus, blocking its ability to function to make a single virus.

Since 1995, new protease inhibitors and combinations with improved dosing have become available, but the protease inhibitors developed in the mid-1990s changed the course of many diseases and viruses.