NUL close to Covid-19 treatment breakthrough – scientists

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Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE National University of Lesotho (NUL’s) Innovation Hub says it is on the brink of making a breakthrough in the developing a cure for Covid-19.

Scientists from NUL told the media this week that they have made significant progress in the drug development.

In July this year, the scientists developed a Covid-19 treatment herbal mixture which passed the first stage of pharmacological tests. The mixture was made from local medicinal plants which had previously gone through extensive toxicity testing.

The scientists are led by Dr Lerato Seleteng-Kose, whose research focuses on traditional medicinal plants. Other team members include Professor Mosotho George (Chemistry), Dr Liteboho Maduna (Medical Microbiology), Mr Oriel Hlokoane (MSc in Medicinal Chemistry) and Mr Motiki Beleme (BSc in Chemical Technology).

“We have worked with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa to prove that this drug, which still under development, works against the Covid-19-causing virus, at least in the lab,” Dr Seleteng-Kose said.

She said the drug was also tested against another coronavirus which causes a different disease called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

“In short, the results show that our potential drug works against SARS-CoV-2 which causes Covid-19 and MERS-CoV which causes MERS,” Dr Seleteng-Kose said.

Communications, Science and Technology minister Thesele ‘Maseribane said following the results of the preliminary tests conducted at NUL, the drug compound was taken to CSIR in Pretoria for further testing against coronaviruses on 29 July 2020.

Mr ‘Maseribane they are now awaiting pre-clinical and clinical trials to be undertaken to evaluate the drug compound for human use.

“If the trials yield positive results, the drug will be introduced onto the market for treatment of Covid-19, through the NUL Innovation Hub Business Support Programme.”

It is however, still unclear when the trials will be done.

For his part, NUL Vice Chancellor Professor Kananelo Mosito said the Covid-19 pandemic challenged institutions of higher learning in many new and unexpected ways. This however, brings both challenges and opportunities for universities, particularly in relation to open science, research, quality assurance, university autonomy, funding and civic engagement.

He said the pandemic has also propelled the research and higher education sectors to the forefront of public attention.

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