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      When there is a pandemic there is no time to waste: should we have hydroxychloroquine in our armoury against COVID-19 infected patients?

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          Abstract

          The current use of chloroquine and/or hydroxychloroquine, a drug currently used to treat autoimmune rheumatic diseases, in treating severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by coronavirus 2 (SARSCoV-2) or COVID-19-infected patients with pneumonia is a matter of intense consideration. We wish to enter the ongoing debate as to whether this well-known drug must be given to Greek COVID-19-infected patients, especially those with pneumonia. Our arguments are based on the existing data and the capacity of the Greek health system to afford potent anti-viral treatments, which are under immense investigation. We propose several suggestions related to treatment of COVID-19 pneumonia with chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine that we think must be taken into consideration to fit the evolving situation of the pandemic in Greece.

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          Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro

          Dear Editor, In December 2019, a novel pneumonia caused by a previously unknown pathogen emerged in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China. The initial cases were linked to exposures in a seafood market in Wuhan. 1 As of January 27, 2020, the Chinese authorities reported 2835 confirmed cases in mainland China, including 81 deaths. Additionally, 19 confirmed cases were identified in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and 39 imported cases were identified in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, United States, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, France, Australia and Canada. The pathogen was soon identified as a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which is closely related to sever acute respiratory syndrome CoV (SARS-CoV). 2 Currently, there is no specific treatment against the new virus. Therefore, identifying effective antiviral agents to combat the disease is urgently needed. An efficient approach to drug discovery is to test whether the existing antiviral drugs are effective in treating related viral infections. The 2019-nCoV belongs to Betacoronavirus which also contains SARS-CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome CoV (MERS-CoV). Several drugs, such as ribavirin, interferon, lopinavir-ritonavir, corticosteroids, have been used in patients with SARS or MERS, although the efficacy of some drugs remains controversial. 3 In this study, we evaluated the antiviral efficiency of five FAD-approved drugs including ribavirin, penciclovir, nitazoxanide, nafamostat, chloroquine and two well-known broad-spectrum antiviral drugs remdesivir (GS-5734) and favipiravir (T-705) against a clinical isolate of 2019-nCoV in vitro. Standard assays were carried out to measure the effects of these compounds on the cytotoxicity, virus yield and infection rates of 2019-nCoVs. Firstly, the cytotoxicity of the candidate compounds in Vero E6 cells (ATCC-1586) was determined by the CCK8 assay. Then, Vero E6 cells were infected with nCoV-2019BetaCoV/Wuhan/WIV04/2019 2 at a multiplicity of infection (MOI) of 0.05 in the presence of varying concentrations of the test drugs. DMSO was used in the controls. Efficacies were evaluated by quantification of viral copy numbers in the cell supernatant via quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) and confirmed with visualization of virus nucleoprotein (NP) expression through immunofluorescence microscopy at 48 h post infection (p.i.) (cytopathic effect was not obvious at this time point of infection). Among the seven tested drugs, high concentrations of three nucleoside analogs including ribavirin (half-maximal effective concentration (EC50) = 109.50 μM, half-cytotoxic concentration (CC50) > 400 μM, selectivity index (SI) > 3.65), penciclovir (EC50 = 95.96 μM, CC50 > 400 μM, SI > 4.17) and favipiravir (EC50 = 61.88 μM, CC50 > 400 μM, SI > 6.46) were required to reduce the viral infection (Fig. 1a and Supplementary information, Fig. S1). However, favipiravir has been shown to be 100% effective in protecting mice against Ebola virus challenge, although its EC50 value in Vero E6 cells was as high as 67 μM, 4 suggesting further in vivo studies are recommended to evaluate this antiviral nucleoside. Nafamostat, a potent inhibitor of MERS-CoV, which prevents membrane fusion, was inhibitive against the 2019-nCoV infection (EC50 = 22.50 μM, CC50 > 100 μM, SI > 4.44). Nitazoxanide, a commercial antiprotozoal agent with an antiviral potential against a broad range of viruses including human and animal coronaviruses, inhibited the 2019-nCoV at a low-micromolar concentration (EC50 = 2.12 μM; CC50 > 35.53 μM; SI > 16.76). Further in vivo evaluation of this drug against 2019-nCoV infection is recommended. Notably, two compounds remdesivir (EC50 = 0.77 μM; CC50 > 100 μM; SI > 129.87) and chloroquine (EC50 = 1.13 μM; CC50 > 100 μM, SI > 88.50) potently blocked virus infection at low-micromolar concentration and showed high SI (Fig. 1a, b). Fig. 1 The antiviral activities of the test drugs against 2019-nCoV in vitro. a Vero E6 cells were infected with 2019-nCoV at an MOI of 0.05 in the treatment of different doses of the indicated antivirals for 48 h. The viral yield in the cell supernatant was then quantified by qRT-PCR. Cytotoxicity of these drugs to Vero E6 cells was measured by CCK-8 assays. The left and right Y-axis of the graphs represent mean % inhibition of virus yield and cytotoxicity of the drugs, respectively. The experiments were done in triplicates. b Immunofluorescence microscopy of virus infection upon treatment of remdesivir and chloroquine. Virus infection and drug treatment were performed as mentioned above. At 48 h p.i., the infected cells were fixed, and then probed with rabbit sera against the NP of a bat SARS-related CoV 2 as the primary antibody and Alexa 488-labeled goat anti-rabbit IgG (1:500; Abcam) as the secondary antibody, respectively. The nuclei were stained with Hoechst dye. Bars, 100 μm. c and d Time-of-addition experiment of remdesivir and chloroquine. For “Full-time” treatment, Vero E6 cells were pre-treated with the drugs for 1 h, and virus was then added to allow attachment for 2 h. Afterwards, the virus–drug mixture was removed, and the cells were cultured with drug-containing medium until the end of the experiment. For “Entry” treatment, the drugs were added to the cells for 1 h before viral attachment, and at 2 h p.i., the virus–drug mixture was replaced with fresh culture medium and maintained till the end of the experiment. For “Post-entry” experiment, drugs were added at 2 h p.i., and maintained until the end of the experiment. For all the experimental groups, cells were infected with 2019-nCoV at an MOI of 0.05, and virus yield in the infected cell supernatants was quantified by qRT-PCR c and NP expression in infected cells was analyzed by Western blot d at 14 h p.i. Remdesivir has been recently recognized as a promising antiviral drug against a wide array of RNA viruses (including SARS/MERS-CoV 5 ) infection in cultured cells, mice and nonhuman primate (NHP) models. It is currently under clinical development for the treatment of Ebola virus infection. 6 Remdesivir is an adenosine analogue, which incorporates into nascent viral RNA chains and results in pre-mature termination. 7 Our time-of-addition assay showed remdesivir functioned at a stage post virus entry (Fig. 1c, d), which is in agreement with its putative anti-viral mechanism as a nucleotide analogue. Warren et al. showed that in NHP model, intravenous administration of 10 mg/kg dose of remdesivir resulted in concomitant persistent levels of its active form in the blood (10 μM) and conferred 100% protection against Ebola virus infection. 7 Our data showed that EC90 value of remdesivir against 2019-nCoV in Vero E6 cells was 1.76 μM, suggesting its working concentration is likely to be achieved in NHP. Our preliminary data (Supplementary information, Fig. S2) showed that remdesivir also inhibited virus infection efficiently in a human cell line (human liver cancer Huh-7 cells), which is sensitive to 2019-nCoV. 2 Chloroquine, a widely-used anti-malarial and autoimmune disease drug, has recently been reported as a potential broad-spectrum antiviral drug. 8,9 Chloroquine is known to block virus infection by increasing endosomal pH required for virus/cell fusion, as well as interfering with the glycosylation of cellular receptors of SARS-CoV. 10 Our time-of-addition assay demonstrated that chloroquine functioned at both entry, and at post-entry stages of the 2019-nCoV infection in Vero E6 cells (Fig. 1c, d). Besides its antiviral activity, chloroquine has an immune-modulating activity, which may synergistically enhance its antiviral effect in vivo. Chloroquine is widely distributed in the whole body, including lung, after oral administration. The EC90 value of chloroquine against the 2019-nCoV in Vero E6 cells was 6.90 μM, which can be clinically achievable as demonstrated in the plasma of rheumatoid arthritis patients who received 500 mg administration. 11 Chloroquine is a cheap and a safe drug that has been used for more than 70 years and, therefore, it is potentially clinically applicable against the 2019-nCoV. Our findings reveal that remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro. Since these compounds have been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease. Supplementary information Supplementary information, Materials and Figures
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            In Vitro Antiviral Activity and Projection of Optimized Dosing Design of Hydroxychloroquine for the Treatment of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

            Abstract Background The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) first broke out in Wuhan (China) and subsequently spread worldwide. Chloroquine has been sporadically used in treating SARS-CoV-2 infection. Hydroxychloroquine shares the same mechanism of action as chloroquine, but its more tolerable safety profile makes it the preferred drug to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions. We propose that the immunomodulatory effect of hydroxychloroquine also may be useful in controlling the cytokine storm that occurs late-phase in critically ill SARS-CoV-2 infected patients. Currently, there is no evidence to support the use of hydroxychloroquine in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Methods The pharmacological activity of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine was tested using SARS-CoV-2 infected Vero cells. Physiologically-based pharmacokinetic models (PBPK) were implemented for both drugs separately by integrating their in vitro data. Using the PBPK models, hydroxychloroquine concentrations in lung fluid were simulated under 5 different dosing regimens to explore the most effective regimen whilst considering the drug’s safety profile. Results Hydroxychloroquine (EC50=0.72 μM) was found to be more potent than chloroquine (EC50=5.47 μM) in vitro. Based on PBPK models results, a loading dose of 400 mg twice daily of hydroxychloroquine sulfate given orally, followed by a maintenance dose of 200 mg given twice daily for 4 days is recommended for SARS-CoV-2 infection, as it reached three times the potency of chloroquine phosphate when given 500 mg twice daily 5 days in advance. Conclusions Hydroxychloroquine was found to be more potent than chloroquine to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in vitro.
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              Chloroquine is a potent inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection and spread

              Background Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV). No effective prophylactic or post-exposure therapy is currently available. Results We report, however, that chloroquine has strong antiviral effects on SARS-CoV infection of primate cells. These inhibitory effects are observed when the cells are treated with the drug either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage. In addition to the well-known functions of chloroquine such as elevations of endosomal pH, the drug appears to interfere with terminal glycosylation of the cellular receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. This may negatively influence the virus-receptor binding and abrogate the infection, with further ramifications by the elevation of vesicular pH, resulting in the inhibition of infection and spread of SARS CoV at clinically admissible concentrations. Conclusion Chloroquine is effective in preventing the spread of SARS CoV in cell culture. Favorable inhibition of virus spread was observed when the cells were either treated with chloroquine prior to or after SARS CoV infection. In addition, the indirect immunofluorescence assay described herein represents a simple and rapid method for screening SARS-CoV antiviral compounds.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Mediterr J Rheumatol
                Mediterr J Rheumatol
                MJR
                Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology
                The Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology (MJR)
                2529-198X
                March 2020
                31 March 2020
                : 31
                : 1
                : 94-97
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology,
                [2 ]Department of Respiratory Medicine, and
                [3 ] Intensive Care Unit, Faculty of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, University of Thessaly, Larissa, Greece
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Dimitrios P. Bogdanos, MD, PhD Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, University of Thessaly, 40500 Larissa, Greece, Tel.: +30 2413502813, Fax: +30 2413501016, E-mail: bogdanos@ 123456med.uth.gr
                Article
                MJR-31-1-94
                10.31138/mjr.31.1.94
                7219635
                © 2020 The Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology (MJR)

                This work is licensed under and Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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                pandemic, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, covid19

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