Existing Drugs Might Treat COVID-19 | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Biotech Innovations
June 9, 2020

Existing Drugs Might Treat COVID-19

JAMA. 2020;323(22):2239. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.9265

Drugs already marketed for conditions including schizophrenia might have potential as treatments for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a Nature study suggests.

In laboratory experiments, 10 pharmaceutical agents that are currently available or in development killed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). But the compounds still need testing in clinical trials to demonstrate safety and efficacy. Additionally, the researchers cautioned that the cough syrup ingredient dextromethorphan had proviral activity.

To pinpoint potential therapeutics, the researchers identified protein interactions between SARS-CoV-2 and human cells. The human proteins involved in these interactions are druggable targets, so the next step was to find existing compounds that act on them. The researchers identified 69 agents and tested 47 of them against SARS-CoV-2.

The 10 compounds that emerged from these experiments fall into 2 camps. One group interferes with protein transcription, affecting the virus’s ability to replicate. The other, which includes the antipsychotic haloperidol, targets sigma-1 and sigma-2 receptors on human cells, disrupting the virus in different ways.

Several of these compounds already have US Food and Drug Administration approval as over-the-counter or prescription drugs. The available drugs include 2 antihistamines, the hormone progesterone, and the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine.

However, the most promising agent was a preclinical compound called PB28, senior author Nevan Krogan, PhD, of University of California, San Francisco, said in a media briefing. It was 20 times more potent than hydroxychloroquine in the group’s experiments.

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