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New research from U of W shows that diabetes medications could treat COVID-19 in diabetes patients

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New research shows that diabetes medications could treat COVID-19 in diabetes patients

Diabetes Drugs Could Prevent Virus Replication

Medications used to treat type-2 diabetes could be effective in stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus in people with diabetes – a population with a much higher risk of infection and a much higher probability of complications from the virus.

A new study from researchers at the University of Waterloo examined the 3D structure of the COVID-19 protein and found that a specific class of diabetes medications could bind to the virus and stop it from replicating. The study, which is pending peer review, indicates that the medication could be effective in curing COVID-19 in diabetes patients.


U of W researchers studied a known drug called "Linagliptin" which is sold in Canada, US and Europe to treat type-2-diabetes. It's brand name is "Trajenta". This drug belongs to DPP4 class of inhibitors.

“Previous research has shown us the molecular structure of a COVID-19 protein, which is responsible for viral growth in the host cells” said Praveen Nekkar, a professor at Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy and lead researcher on the study. “My group decided to study this further by investigating the structure of the COVID-19 protein by using computational software to understand if existing drugs can bind to it and prevent replication of the virus in host cells.” 

Nekkar and his team found that a specific class of medications called dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitors, or DPP4 inhibitors, could bind to the COVID-19 protein.

“The DPP4 inhibitors’ ability to bind to the protein in this way indicates their potential to prevent virus replication process in host cells,” Nekkar said. “If we can achieve this result in clinical trials, we will have identified one way to prevent virus infection in humans.

“Discovering and developing a new medication can take 10 to 15 years and cost upwards of a billion dollars,” Nekkar said. “COVID-19 is wreaking havoc right now and we need good pharmacotherapy treatment options as soon as possible – that’s why we started investigating drug repurposing.”

Drug repurposing is the practice of determining new therapeutic uses for drugs that are already approved by regulatory agencies. Nekkar’s lab has previous expertise in this area and has pivoted to address COVID-19.

Further study is required before the drug can commercially treat COVID-19 patients and Nekkar is eager to begin trials at his lab.

“Our next steps are conducting further investigation in our lab and with collaborators. We want to test the DPP4 inhibitors in cell cultures infected with the COVID-19 virus and assess their efficacy. From there we will scale up to trials, and, eventually a treatment for the market.” 

Note: This research has not yet been peer-reviewed and is being released as part of UWaterloo’s commitment to help inform Canada’s COVID-19 response.



 What TRAJENTA does:

TRAJENTA is a member of a class of medicines called DPP-4 inhibitors (dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors). TRAJENTA helps to improve the levels of insulin when blood sugar level is high, especially after a meal. TRAJENTA also helps to decrease the amount of sugar made by the body.

Side Effects And What To Do About Them

These are not all the possible side effects that you may have when taking TRAJENTA. If you experience any side effects not listed here, contact your healthcare professional.

Side effects with TRAJENTA include:


        Inflamed nose or throat (nasopharyngitis), sore throat, cold symptoms, stuffy or runny nose

        High blood triglyceride

        High blood lipase


        Hives or nettle rash (urticaria)

        Rash, itching - Cases of severe skin reactions including bullous pemphigoid can occur and have been reported in patients taking TRAJENTA. You may need treatment in a hospital. You may need to see a dermatologist to diagnose and treat these skin reactions.

        Mouth sores (mouth ulceration)

        TRAJENTA is not recommended for children and adolescents under 18 years.

        Pancreatitis - Cases of inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) have been reported in patients taking TRAJENTA. Pancreatitis can be severe and lead to death.

Trajenta is Manufactured by: Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. - Co-promoted with:  Eli Lilly Canada Inc.

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