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1.
Molecular Therapy - Nucleic Acids ; 2022.
Article in English | ScienceDirect | ID: covidwho-1996465

ABSTRACT

The current COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutics. Here we describe a new class of self-assembling immunostimulatory short duplex RNAs that potently induce production of type I and type III interferon (IFN-I and IFN-III). These RNAs require a minimum of 20 base pairs, lack any sequence or structural characteristics of known immunostimulatory RNAs, and instead require a unique sequence motif (sense strand: 5’-C, antisense strand: 3’-GGG) that mediates end-to-end dimer self-assembly. The presence of terminal hydroxyl or monophosphate groups, blunt or overhanging ends, or terminal RNA or DNA bases did not affect their ability to induce IFN. Unlike previously described immunostimulatory siRNAs, their activity is independent of TLR7/8, but requires the RIG-I/IRF3 pathway that induces a more restricted antiviral response with a lower proinflammatory signature compared with immunostimulant poly(I:C). Immune stimulation mediated by these duplex RNAs results in broad spectrum inhibition of infections by many respiratory viruses with pandemic potential, including SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, HCoV-NL63, and influenza A virus in cell lines, human Lung Chips that mimic organ-level lung pathophysiology, and a mouse SARS-CoV-2 infection model. These short dsRNAs can be manufactured easily, and thus potentially could be harnessed to produce broad-spectrum antiviral therapeutics.

2.
Front Immunol ; 13: 894534, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1933683

ABSTRACT

Secondary bacterial infections can exacerbate SARS-CoV-2 infection, but their prevalence and impact remain poorly understood. Here, we established that a mild to moderate infection with the SARS-CoV-2 USA-WA1/2020 strain increased the risk of pneumococcal (type 2 strain D39) coinfection in a time-dependent, but sex-independent, manner in the transgenic K18-hACE2 mouse model of COVID-19. Bacterial coinfection increased lethality when the bacteria was initiated at 5 or 7 d post-virus infection (pvi) but not at 3 d pvi. Bacterial outgrowth was accompanied by neutrophilia in the groups coinfected at 7 d pvi and reductions in B cells, T cells, IL-6, IL-15, IL-18, and LIF were present in groups coinfected at 5 d pvi. However, viral burden, lung pathology, cytokines, chemokines, and immune cell activation were largely unchanged after bacterial coinfection. Examining surviving animals more than a week after infection resolution suggested that immune cell activation remained high and was exacerbated in the lungs of coinfected animals compared with SARS-CoV-2 infection alone. These data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 increases susceptibility and pathogenicity to bacterial coinfection, and further studies are needed to understand and combat disease associated with bacterial pneumonia in COVID-19 patients.


Subject(s)
Bacterial Infections , COVID-19 , Coinfection , Animals , Bacteria , Humans , Mice , Mice, Transgenic , SARS-CoV-2
3.
Viruses ; 14(7)2022 06 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1911657

ABSTRACT

The Syrian hamster has proved useful in the evaluation of therapeutics and vaccines for severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). To advance the model for preclinical studies, we conducted serial sacrifice of lungs, large pulmonary vessels, and hearts from male and female Syrian hamsters for days 1-4, and 8 post-infection (dpi) following infection with a high dose of SARS-CoV-2. Evaluation of microscopic lung histopathology scores suggests 4 and 8 dpi as prime indicators in the evaluation of moderate pathology with bronchial hyperplasia, alveolar involvement and bronchiolization being key assessments of lung disease and recovery, respectively. In addition, neutrophil levels, red blood cell count and hematocrit showed significant increases during early infection. We present histological evidence of severe damage to the pulmonary vasculature with extensive leukocyte transmigration and the loss of endothelial cells and tunica media. Our evidence of endothelial and inflammatory cell death in the pulmonary vessels suggests endothelialitis secondary to SARS-CoV-2 epithelial cell infection as a possible determinant of the pathological findings along with the host inflammatory response. Lastly, pathological examination of the heart revealed evidence for intracardiac platelet/fibrin aggregates in male and female hamsters on 8 dpi, which might be indicative of a hypercoagulative state in these animals.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Animals , Cricetinae , Disease Models, Animal , Endothelial Cells , Female , Lung/pathology , Male , Mesocricetus , SARS-CoV-2
4.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 2268, 2022 04 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1815534

ABSTRACT

Emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants continue to threaten the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, and small-molecule antivirals can provide an important therapeutic treatment option. The viral main protease (Mpro) is critical for virus replication and thus is considered an attractive drug target. We performed the design and characterization of three covalent hybrid inhibitors BBH-1, BBH-2 and NBH-2 created by splicing components of hepatitis C protease inhibitors boceprevir and narlaprevir, and known SARS-CoV-1 protease inhibitors. A joint X-ray/neutron structure of the Mpro/BBH-1 complex demonstrates that a Cys145 thiolate reaction with the inhibitor's keto-warhead creates a negatively charged oxyanion. Protonation states of the ionizable residues in the Mpro active site adapt to the inhibitor, which appears to be an intrinsic property of Mpro. Structural comparisons of the hybrid inhibitors with PF-07321332 reveal unconventional F···O interactions of PF-07321332 with Mpro which may explain its more favorable enthalpy of binding. BBH-1, BBH-2 and NBH-2 exhibit comparable antiviral properties in vitro relative to PF-07321332, making them good candidates for further design of improved antivirals.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Antiviral Agents/chemistry , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/drug therapy , COVID-19 Vaccines , Coronavirus 3C Proteases , Cyclopropanes , Humans , Lactams , Leucine/analogs & derivatives , Nitriles , Proline/analogs & derivatives , Protease Inhibitors/chemistry , Protease Inhibitors/pharmacology , Protease Inhibitors/therapeutic use , Sulfones , Urea
5.
Open forum infectious diseases ; 8(Suppl 1):S281-S282, 2021.
Article in English | EuropePMC | ID: covidwho-1602626

ABSTRACT

Background The quantitative level of pathogens present in a host is a major driver of infectious disease (ID) state and outcome. However, the majority of ID diagnostics are qualitative. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is an emerging ID diagnostics and research tool to provide insights, including tracking transmission, evolution, and identifying novel strains. Methods We built a novel likelihood-based computational method to leverage pathogen-specific genome-wide NGS data to detect SARS-CoV-2, profile genetic variants, and furthermore quantify levels of these pathogens. We used de-identified clinical specimens tested for SARS-CoV-2 using RT-PCR, SARS-CoV-2 NGS Assay (hybrid capture, Twist Bioscience), or ARTIC (amplicon-based) platform, and COVID-DX software. A training (n=87) and validation (n=22) set was selected to establish the strength of our quantification model. We fit non-uniform probabilistic error profiles to a deterministic sigmoidal equation that more realistically represents observed data and used likelihood maximized over several different read depths to improve accuracy over a wide range of values of viral load. Given the proportion of the genome covered at varying depths for a single sample as input data, our model estimated the Ct of that sample as the value that produces the maximum likelihood of generating the observed genome coverage data. Results The model fit on 87 SARS-CoV-2 NGS Assay training samples produced a good fit to the 22 validation samples, with a coefficient of correlation (r2) of ~0.8. The accuracy of the model was high (mean absolute % error of ~10%, meaning our model is able to predict the Ct value of each sample within a margin of ±10% on average). Because of the nature of the commonly used ARTIC protocol, we found that all quantitative signals in this data were lost during PCR amplification and the model is not applicable for quantification of samples captured this way. The ability to model quantification is a major advantage of the SARS-CoV-2 NGS assay protocol. The likelihood-based model to estimate SARS-CoV-2 viral titer Left Observed genome coverage (y-axis) plotted against Ct value (x-axis). The best-fitting logistic curve is demonstrated with a red line with shaded areas above and below representing the fitted error profile. RIGHT: Model-estimated Ct values (y-axis) compared to laboratory Ct values (x-axis) with grey bars representing estimated confidence intervals. The 1:1 diagonal is shown as a dotted line. Conclusion To our knowledge, this is the first model to incorporate sequence data mapped across the genome of a pathogen to quantify the level of that pathogen in a clinical specimen. This has implications in ID diagnostics, research, and metagenomics. Disclosures Heather L. Wells, MPH, Biotia, Inc. (Consultant) Joseph Barrows, MS, Biotia (Employee) Mara Couto-Rodriguez, MS, Biotia (Employee) Xavier O. Jirau Serrano, B.S., Biotia (Employee) Marilyne Debieu, PhD, Biotia (Employee) Karen Wessel, PhD, Labor Zotz/Klimas (Employee) Christopher Mason, PhD, Biotia (Board Member, Advisor or Review Panel member, Shareholder) Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, MD PhD, Biotia Inc (Employee, Shareholder) Niamh B. O’Hara, PhD, Biotia (Board Member, Employee, Shareholder)

6.
PLoS One ; 16(11): e0259943, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1526690

ABSTRACT

Last year observed a global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2) infection affecting millions of individuals worldwide. There is an urgent unmet need to provide an easily producible and affordable medicine to prevent transmission and provide early treatment for this disease. Since the nasal cavity and the rhinopharynx are the sites of initial replication of SARS-CoV-2, a nasal spray may be an effective option to target SARS-CoV-2 infection. In this study, we tested the antiviral action of three candidate nasal spray formulations against SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. We determined that iota-carrageenan in concentrations as low as 6 µg/mL inhibits SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. The concentrations of iota-carrageenan with activity against SARS-CoV-2 in vitro may be easily achieved through the application of nasal sprays as commonly used in several countries. Recently a double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that iota-carrageenan in isotonic sodium chloride reduces ca. five times the risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2 in health care personnel. Further, xylitol at a concentration of 50 mg/mL (ca. 329 mM) was found to exert some antiviral action, though this preliminary finding needs further confirmation.


Subject(s)
Carrageenan/pharmacology , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Xylitol/pharmacology , Animals , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Chlorocebus aethiops , Nasal Sprays , Vero Cells
7.
J Med Chem ; 64(23): 17366-17383, 2021 12 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1493002

ABSTRACT

Creating small-molecule antivirals specific for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) proteins is crucial to battle coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro) is an established drug target for the design of protease inhibitors. We performed a structure-activity relationship (SAR) study of noncovalent compounds that bind in the enzyme's substrate-binding subsites S1 and S2, revealing structural, electronic, and electrostatic determinants of these sites. The study was guided by the X-ray/neutron structure of Mpro complexed with Mcule-5948770040 (compound 1), in which protonation states were directly visualized. Virtual reality-assisted structure analysis and small-molecule building were employed to generate analogues of 1. In vitro enzyme inhibition assays and room-temperature X-ray structures demonstrated the effect of chemical modifications on Mpro inhibition, showing that (1) maintaining correct geometry of an inhibitor's P1 group is essential to preserve the hydrogen bond with the protonated His163; (2) a positively charged linker is preferred; and (3) subsite S2 prefers nonbulky modestly electronegative groups.


Subject(s)
Coronavirus 3C Proteases , Protease Inhibitors , Orotic Acid/analogs & derivatives , Piperazines , Protein Conformation , Static Electricity
8.
J Chem Inf Model ; 61(11): 5469-5483, 2021 11 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1475243

ABSTRACT

COVID-19, an acute viral pneumonia, has emerged as a devastating pandemic. Drug repurposing allows researchers to find different indications of FDA-approved or investigational drugs. In this current study, a sequence of pharmacophore and molecular modeling-based screening against COVID-19 Mpro (PDB: 6LU7) suggested a subset of drugs, from the Drug Bank database, which may have antiviral activity. A total of 44 out of 8823 of the most promising virtual hits from the Drug Bank were subjected to molecular dynamics simulation experiments to explore the strength of their interactions with the SARS-CoV-2 Mpro active site. MD findings point toward three drugs (DB04020, DB12411, and DB11779) with very low relative free energies for SARS-CoV-2 Mpro with interactions at His41 and Met49. MD simulations identified an additional interaction with Glu166, which enhanced the binding affinity significantly. Therefore, Glu166 could be an interesting target for structure-based drug design. Quantitative structural-activity relationship analysis was performed on the 44 most promising hits from molecular docking-based virtual screening. Partial least square regression accurately predicted the values of independent drug candidates' binding energy with impressively high accuracy. Finally, the EC50 and CC50 of 10 drug candidates were measured against SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture. Nilotinib and bemcentinib had EC50 values of 2.6 and 1.1 µM, respectively. In summary, the results of our computer-aided drug design provide a roadmap for rational drug design of Mpro inhibitors and the discovery of certified medications as COVID-19 antiviral therapeutics.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Protease Inhibitors , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Coronavirus 3C Proteases , Drug Repositioning , Humans , Molecular Docking Simulation , Molecular Dynamics Simulation , Pyrimidines , SARS-CoV-2
9.
Front Immunol ; 11: 607314, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1389171

ABSTRACT

Acute lung injury (ALI) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality after viral infections, including influenza A virus H1N1, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2. The angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a key host membrane-bound protein that modulates ALI induced by viral infection, pulmonary acid aspiration, and sepsis. However, the contributions of ACE2 sequence variants to individual differences in disease risk and severity after viral infection are not understood. In this study, we quantified H1N1 influenza-infected lung transcriptomes across a family of 41 BXD recombinant inbred strains of mice and both parents-C57BL/6J and DBA/2J. In response to infection Ace2 mRNA levels decreased significantly for both parental strains and the expression levels was associated with disease severity (body weight loss) and viral load (expression levels of viral NA segment) across the BXD family members. Pulmonary RNA-seq for 43 lines was analyzed using weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) and Bayesian network approaches. Ace2 not only participated in virus-induced ALI by interacting with TNF, MAPK, and NOTCH signaling pathways, but was also linked with high confidence to gene products that have important functions in the pulmonary epithelium, including Rnf128, Muc5b, and Tmprss2. Comparable sets of transcripts were also highlighted in parallel studies of human SARS-CoV-infected primary human airway epithelial cells. Using conventional mapping methods, we determined that weight loss at two and three days after viral infection maps to chromosome X-the location of Ace2. This finding motivated the hierarchical Bayesian network analysis, which defined molecular endophenotypes of lung infection linked to Ace2 expression and to a key disease outcome. Core members of this Bayesian network include Ace2, Atf4, Csf2, Cxcl2, Lif, Maml3, Muc5b, Reg3g, Ripk3, and Traf3. Collectively, these findings define a causally-rooted Ace2 modulatory network relevant to host response to viral infection and identify potential therapeutic targets for virus-induced respiratory diseases, including those caused by influenza and coronaviruses.


Subject(s)
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Lung/virology , Virus Diseases/genetics , Animals , Bayes Theorem , Epithelial Cells/virology , Female , Humans , Mice , Mice, Inbred C57BL , Mice, Inbred DBA , Respiratory Mucosa/virology , Signal Transduction/genetics
10.
Microbiol Spectr ; 9(2): e0019721, 2021 10 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1381169

ABSTRACT

The emergence of novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genetic variants that may alter viral fitness highlights the urgency of widespread next-generation sequencing (NGS) surveillance. To profile genetic variants of the entire SARS-CoV-2 genome, we developed and clinically validated a hybridization capture SARS-CoV-2 NGS assay, integrating novel methods for panel design using double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) biotin-labeled probes, and built accompanying software. This test is the first hybrid capture-based NGS assay given Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization for detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The positive and negative percent agreement (PPA and NPA, respectively) were defined in comparison to the results for an orthogonal real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay (PPA and NPA, 96.7 and 100%, respectively). The limit of detection was established to be 800 copies/ml with an average fold enrichment of 46,791. Furthermore, utilizing the research-use-only analysis to profile the variants, we identified 55 novel mutations, including 11 in the functionally important spike protein. Finally, we profiled the full nasopharyngeal microbiome using metagenomics and found overrepresentation of 7 taxa and evidence of macrolide resistance in SARS-CoV-2-positive patients. This hybrid capture NGS assay, coupled with optimized software, is a powerful approach to detect and comprehensively map SARS-CoV-2 genetic variants for tracking viral evolution and guiding vaccine updates. IMPORTANCE This is the first FDA emergency-use-authorized hybridization capture-based next-generation sequencing (NGS) assay to detect the SARS-CoV-2 genome. Viral metagenomics and the novel hybrid capture NGS-based assay, along with its research-use-only analysis, can provide important genetic insights into SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging pathogens and improve surveillance and early detection, potentially preventing or mitigating new outbreaks. Better understanding of the continuously evolving SARS-CoV-2 viral genome and the impact of genetic variants may provide individual risk stratification, precision therapeutic options, improved molecular diagnostics, and population-based therapeutic solutions.


Subject(s)
Genetic Variation/genetics , Genome, Viral/genetics , Microbiota/genetics , Nasopharynx/microbiology , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Anti-Bacterial Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/pathology , Drug Resistance, Bacterial/genetics , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing , Humans , Limit of Detection , Macrolides/pharmacology , Metagenomics/methods , RNA, Viral/genetics , Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification
11.
Viruses ; 13(8)2021 07 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1376989

ABSTRACT

Rodents (order Rodentia), followed by bats (order Chiroptera), comprise the largest percentage of living mammals on earth. Thus, it is not surprising that these two orders account for many of the reservoirs of the zoonotic RNA viruses discovered to date. The spillover of these viruses from wildlife to human do not typically result in pandemics but rather geographically confined outbreaks of human infection and disease. While limited geographically, these viruses cause thousands of cases of human disease each year. In this review, we focus on three questions regarding zoonotic viruses that originate in bats and rodents. First, what biological strategies have evolved that allow RNA viruses to reside in bats and rodents? Second, what are the environmental and ecological causes that drive viral spillover? Third, how does virus spillover occur from bats and rodents to humans?


Subject(s)
Chiroptera/virology , Disease Reservoirs/virology , Rodentia/virology , Virus Diseases/transmission , Zoonoses/virology , Animals , Disease Outbreaks , Humans , Zoonoses/transmission
12.
Curr Opin Virol ; 50: 1-7, 2021 10.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1284021

ABSTRACT

A pipeline of effective direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) remains a critical gap in addressing the current pandemic given vaccination hesitancy, the emergence of viral variants of concern, susceptible populations for which vaccination is ineffective or unavailable, and the possibility that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is here to stay. Since the start of the pandemic, global efforts in small molecule drug discovery have focused largely on testing of FDA-approved drugs to accelerate evaluation in clinical trials in hospitalized patients. With 80% of the population who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 having asymptomatic to mild COVID-19, early stage, DAAs would be of enormous benefit to reduce spread, duration of symptoms and quarantine length. We highlight a few of the most promising DAAs in clinical trials and discuss considerations in how to navigate the challenges and pitfalls of novel small molecule discovery and thereby accelerate the advancement of new, safe, and oral DAAs.


Subject(s)
Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Drug Discovery , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Clinical Trials as Topic , Critical Pathways , Humans
13.
ACS Pharmacol Transl Sci ; 3(6): 1278-1292, 2020 Dec 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-872655

ABSTRACT

The urgent need for a cure for early phase COVID-19 infected patients critically underlines drug repositioning strategies able to efficiently identify new and reliable treatments by merging computational, experimental, and pharmacokinetic expertise. Here we report new potential therapeutics for COVID-19 identified with a combined virtual and experimental screening strategy and selected among already approved drugs. We used hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), one of the most studied drugs in current clinical trials, as a reference template to screen for structural similarity against a library of almost 4000 approved drugs. The top-ranked drugs, based on structural similarity to HCQ, were selected for in vitro antiviral assessment. Among the selected drugs, both zuclopenthixol and nebivolol efficiently block SARS-CoV-2 infection with EC50 values in the low micromolar range, as confirmed by independent experiments. The anti-SARS-CoV-2 potential of ambroxol, amodiaquine, and its active metabolite (N-monodesethyl amodiaquine) is also discussed. In trying to understand the "hydroxychloroquine" mechanism of action, both pK a and the HCQ aromatic core may play a role. Further, we show that the amodiaquine metabolite and, to a lesser extent, zuclopenthixol and nebivolol are active in a SARS-CoV-2 titer reduction assay. Given the need for improved efficacy and safety, we propose zuclopenthixol, nebivolol, and amodiaquine as potential candidates for clinical trials against the early phase of the SARS-CoV-2 infection and discuss their potential use as adjuvant to the current (i.e., remdesivir and favipiravir) COVID-19 therapeutics.

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