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Could COVID-19 or Drugs Activate Kaposi Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus?

A new study investigated the impacts of COVID-19 on people with various illnesses. The researchers studied the effects of COVID-19 on patients with cancer and other infectious diseases. The study revealed that SARS-CoV-2 and a few drugs used against it could potentially induce lytic reactivation of Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. Patients with Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus are at increased risk (even if they have recovered) especially in those regions where the virus is actively spreading. The oncogenic virus belongs to the human herpesvirus subfamily, with two alternating life cycle programs after the primary infection- the latent and lytic phases. In the lytic stage, all viral genes are expressed and replication and release of mature virions occur.

The researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 may induce lytic reactivation of  Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. They also tested six drugs including, remdesivir, nafamostat mesylate, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, chloroquine diphosphate, and tocilizumab on cell lines. Two drugs, mainly azithromycin and nafamostat promoted the production of mature virions. Further, the drugs tested on the KSHV+PEL cell line found that only tocilizumab showed inhibitory effects on the BCP-1 cell growth. The researchers opined that patients with Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus need regular follow-up to monitor the viral loads even after they have fully recovered from COVID-19.

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