SARS-CoV-2 and its vaccine/immune-escaping variants continue to pose a serious threat to public health due to a paucity of effective, rapidly deployable, and widely available treatments. Here we address these challenges by combining Pegasys (IFNa) and nafamostat to effectively suppress SARS-CoV-2 infection in cell culture and hamsters. Our results indicate that Serpin E1 is an important mediator of the antiviral activity of IFNa and that both Serpin E1 and camostat can target the same cellular factor TMPRSS2, which plays a critical role in viral replication. The low doses of the drugs in combination may have several clinical advantages, including fewer adverse events and improved patient outcome. Thus, our study may provide a proactive solution for the ongoing pandemic and potential future coronavirus outbreaks, which is still urgently required in many parts of the world.
There is an urgent need for new antivirals with powerful therapeutic potential and tolerable side effects. In the present study, we found that recombinant human interferon-alpha (IFNa) triggers intrinsic and extrinsic cellular antiviral responses, as well as reduces replication of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in vitro. Although IFNa alone was insufficient to completely abolish SARS-CoV-2 replication, combinations of IFNa with remdesivir or other antiviral agents (EIDD-2801, camostat, cycloheximide, or convalescent serum) showed strong synergy and effectively inhibited SARS-CoV-2 infection in human lung epithelial Calu-3 cells. Furthermore, we showed that the IFNa-remdesivir combination suppressed virus replication in human lung organoids, and that its single prophylactic dose attenuated SARS-CoV-2 infection in lungs of Syrian hamsters. Transcriptome and metabolomic analyses showed that the combination of IFNa-remdesivir suppressed virus-mediated changes in infected cells, although it affected the homeostasis of uninfected cells. We also demonstrated synergistic antiviral activity of IFNa2a-based combinations against other virus infections in vitro. Altogether, our results indicate that IFNa2a-based combination therapies can achieve higher efficacy while requiring lower dosage compared to monotherapies, making them attractive targets for further pre-clinical and clinical development.