IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


21st July, 2023 Science and Technology

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Context: The study conducted by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) and collaborators has revealed the anti-viral potential of picolinic acid, a natural compound produced by mammalian cells.


  • Picolinic acid is known for its role in aiding the absorption of zinc and other trace elements from the gut. However, recent research has indicated its potential anti-viral activity. The IISc team stumbled upon picolinic acid while investigating endocytosis, a cellular process that viruses and bacteria often co-opt to enter host cells. This discovery led them to explore the compound's ability to slow down viral entry and its anti-viral potential.

Key findings and implications of the study

Blocking Enveloped Viruses

  • Picolinic acid found to have a remarkable ability to block enveloped viruses, which possess an extra outer membrane made of lipids derived from the host. This envelope is crucial for virus entry into the target cell. Enveloped viruses are responsible for many human infections, including SARS-CoV-2 (responsible for COVID-19) and influenza A.

Disrupting Viral Entry

  • The researchers discovered that picolinic acid specifically blocks the fusion between the virus envelope and the host cell membrane during viral entry. By doing so, it prevents the virus's genetic material from entering the host cell and starting replication. This mechanism explains its effectiveness against various enveloped viruses, including flaviviruses like the Zika virus and the Japanese encephalitis virus.

Antiviral Activity

  • The compound was found to be effective in slowing down viral entry into host cells, thus preventing infection. It displayed a preference for blocking enveloped viruses, while non-enveloped viruses showed little response to the compound. This selective anti-viral activity makes it a promising candidate for developing broad-spectrum therapeutics.

Impact on COVID-19

  • When tested against SARS-CoV-2 in animal models, picolinic acid protected the animals from infection and reduced viral load in the lungs of infected animals. The compound showed potential as a treatment for COVID-19 and other viral diseases.

Immunomodulatory Effect

  • Picolinic acid was also found to increase the number of immune cells in the animals. This indicates its potential to boost the immune response against viral infections.

Therapeutic Development

  • The researchers aim to develop picolinic acid into a broad-spectrum therapeutic that can combat various viral diseases. Its ability to target enveloped viruses, which are prevalent and have pandemic potential, makes it a valuable candidate for future antiviral treatments.

The Study's findings have significant implications:

Potential Broad-Spectrum Therapeutic

  • Picolinic acid's ability to block enveloped viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 and influenza A, makes it a promising candidate for developing broad-spectrum therapeutics that can target a variety of viral diseases.

Novel Mechanism of Action

  • The compound's specific interference with the fusion process during viral entry represents a unique and targeted approach to combat viral infections.

Alternative to Antiviral Drugs

  • If further validated through clinical trials, picolinic acid could offer an alternative to traditional antiviral drugs and help address the challenges of viral infections, including emerging and drug-resistant viruses.

While the study holds promise, some challenges need to be addressed:

  • Clinical Trials: The compound's efficacy and safety need to be further investigated in human clinical trials to determine its potential as a therapeutic agent.
  • Optimizing Dosage and Delivery: Identifying the optimal dosage and delivery method of picolinic acid for different viral infections will be critical for its successful application in humans.

Way Forward

  • Further Research: Continued research is needed to understand picolinic acid's anti-viral mechanisms fully and its potential interactions with other medications.
  • Preclinical Studies: Preclinical studies in animal models and ex vivo experiments on human cells will be essential to gather more evidence on the compound's anti-viral activity.
  • Clinical Trials: Rigorous and well-designed clinical trials are necessary to evaluate picolinic acid's safety and efficacy in treating viral infections in humans.
  • Formulation Development: Developing suitable formulations and delivery methods to ensure optimal bioavailability and stability of picolinic acid as a therapeutic agent.
  • Regulatory Approval: If proven effective and safe in clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approval will be crucial for the compound's widespread use in medical settings.



  • The study's findings open up new possibilities in antiviral research, and picolinic acid may represent a novel approach to combat viral infections, including those caused by enveloped viruses like SARS-CoV-2. However, further research and clinical trials will be needed to explore its safety and efficacy in human patients before it can be considered a mainstream therapeutic option.


Q. Picolinic acid has been studied for its anti-viral activity against enveloped viruses. What is the significance of this feature?

A) Enveloped viruses have a higher potential for mutation and drug resistance.

B) Enveloped viruses are more prevalent in the environment.

C) Enveloped viruses have an extra outer membrane that is essential for viral entry into host cells.

D) Enveloped viruses have a lower rate of replication compared to non-enveloped viruses.

Answer: C

Explanation: Enveloped viruses have an extra outer membrane that is essential for viral entry into host cells. Picolinic acid specifically targets and disrupts the fusion between the virus envelope and the host cell membrane, preventing the virus's genetic material from entering the host cell and initiating replication. This makes picolinic acid effective against a variety of enveloped viruses, including those with pandemic potential.