Scientists in the U.S. have identified more than a dozen existing drugs that could potentially be repurposed as Covid-19 therapies.
Scientists at Scripps Research in California have identified four clinically approved drugs and nine compounds in other stages of development with strong potential to be repurposed as oral drugs to treat the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
"While we now have effective vaccines against Covid-19, we still lack highly effective antiviral drugs that can prevent Covid-19 infections or stop them from worsening," said Peter Schultz, PhD, president and CEO of Scripps Research. "Our results raise the possibility of a number of promising avenues for repurposing existing oral medications with efficacy against SARS-CoV-2.
"We have identified promising existing drugs and are also leveraging our findings to develop optimized antivirals that will be more effective against SARS-CoV-2, including variants and drug-resistant strains, as well as against other coronaviruses that currently exist or might emerge in future."
The scientists tested more than 12,000 drugs on two different types of laboratory-cultured SARS-CoV-2-infected human cells and measured the levels of viral infection after 24 or 48 hours, with them sometimes applying two drugs at the same time.
The team ultimately identified a total of 90 compounds that prevented SARS-CoV-2 from replicating in at least one of the human cells. Out of those compounds,13 had the highest potential to be used as Covid-19 therapies, four of which - halofantrine, nelfinavir, simeprevir, and manidipine - are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The researchers also found 19 drugs that worked in concert with or boosted the activity of remdesivir, an antiviral therapy already approved for treatment of Covid-19.
Going one step further, two drugs - riboprine, which has been tested as a preventative for nausea and surgical infection, and 10-deazaaminopterin, a derivative of the vitamin folic acid - were found to have a synergistic effect on remdesivir and heightened its ability to suppress the virus.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.