Clofazimine Inhibits Coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues scientists race to develop effective treatments to arrest its spread. Many research studies focus on repurposing drugs against COVID-19. One such study was conducted by the researchers at the University of Hong Kong. They found that clofazimine inhibits coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Clofazimine a bright-red dye is used to treat leprosy. In the study, the researchers tested clofazimine in Syrian hamsters infected with SARS-CoV-2. They found that the drug suppressed the viral load in the lungs, reducing lung damage and preventing a potentially-fatal complication, a cytokine storm. Cytokine storm is characterized by an overwhelming inflammatory reaction of the body against SARS-CoV-2. Apart from the amount of the virus in the lungs, the drug also reduced viral shedding, a potentially contagious condition when the virus replicates in the body and is released into the environment.

The reduced viral shedding was seen in nasal and fecal samples of the hamsters treated with the drug. Clofazimine works by blocking viral entry into cells and altering ribonucleic acid (RNA) replication. In the study, the drug reduced the replication of another coronavirus, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV-2), in human lung tissue. The drug appears to have a pan-coronavirus activity, which means it could be used not only for SARS-CoV-2 but also for other coronaviruses that may threaten global public health. Currently, the Phase 2 trial of Clofazimine with interferon beta-1b for treating people with COVID-19 is ongoing at the University of Hong Kong. The researchers also reported that co-administration of clofazimine and remdesivir impacts SARS-CoV-2 replication. Clofazimine exhibited not only potent synergy in terms of viral load but also limited viral replication and reduced viral shedding in the nasal wash, which was not achievable with therapeutic remdesivir or Clofazimine alone.

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