"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Antiviral drug linked to COVID mutations that may spread

September 25, 2023 – Merck’s antiviral COVID drug could cause mutations of the coronavirus that occasionally spread to other people, based on a study published in the net journal Nature.

There isn’t any evidence that molnupiravir, sold under the brand name Lagevrio, has led to the emergence of more contagious or severe variants of Covid, the study said. Nevertheless, the researchers called for a more detailed investigation of the drug.

Researchers examined 15 million COVID genomes and located that typical mutations related to molnupiravir increased in 2022, particularly in places where the drug is widely used, equivalent to the U.S. and the U.K. The mutation rates were also present in populations where the drug is usually prescribed, equivalent to seniors.

Molnupiravir is an antiviral drug given to people after they show signs of COVID-19 illness. It works by blocking the power of the COVID-19 virus to copy itself, thereby stopping the virus from spreading within the body and keeping virus levels low.

The study found that the virus can sometimes survive molnupiravir, resulting in mutations that spread to other people.

Theo Sanderson, the study’s lead creator and postdoctoral fellow on the Francis Crick Institute in London, said The guard that the consequences of the mutations are unclear.

“The signature is very clear, but there are no widespread variants with that signature. At the moment there is nothing that is very widespread and can be traced back to molnupiravir,” he said.

The study doesn’t say that individuals shouldn’t take molnupiravir, but calls on health authorities to closely examine the substance.

“The observation that treatment with molnupiravir has left visible traces in global sequencing databases, including forwarding of molnupiravir-derived sequences, will be an important consideration in assessing the efficacy and evolutionary safety of this drug,” the researchers concluded.

When asked for comment, Merck questioned the evidence.

“The authors hypothesize that these mutations are associated with viral spread from patients treated with molnupiravir, in the absence of documented evidence of this transmission. Instead, the authors rely on circumstantial evidence between the region from which the sequence was identified and the time frame of sequence collection in countries where molnupiravir is available to draw their conclusions,” the corporate said.

The FDA approved the usage of molnupiravir to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults in December 2021. The FDA also approved the usage of Paxlovid, an antiviral drug made by Pfizer.