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mBio ; 13(2): e0370521, 2022 04 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1714363


Combinations of direct-acting antivirals are needed to minimize drug resistance mutations and stably suppress replication of RNA viruses. Currently, there are limited therapeutic options against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and testing of a number of drug regimens has led to conflicting results. Here, we show that cobicistat, which is an FDA-approved drug booster that blocks the activity of the drug-metabolizing proteins cytochrome P450-3As (CYP3As) and P-glycoprotein (P-gp), inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication. Two independent cell-to-cell membrane fusion assays showed that the antiviral effect of cobicistat is exerted through inhibition of spike protein-mediated membrane fusion. In line with this, incubation with low-micromolar concentrations of cobicistat decreased viral replication in three different cell lines including cells of lung and gut origin. When cobicistat was used in combination with remdesivir, a synergistic effect on the inhibition of viral replication was observed in cell lines and in a primary human colon organoid. This was consistent with the effects of cobicistat on two of its known targets, CYP3A4 and P-gp, the silencing of which boosted the in vitro antiviral activity of remdesivir in a cobicistat-like manner. When administered in vivo to Syrian hamsters at a high dose, cobicistat decreased viral load and mitigated clinical progression. These data highlight cobicistat as a therapeutic candidate for treating SARS-CoV-2 infection and as a potential building block of combination therapies for COVID-19. IMPORTANCE The lack of effective antiviral treatments against SARS-CoV-2 is a significant limitation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Single-drug regimens have so far yielded limited results, indicating that combinations of antivirals might be required, as previously seen for other RNA viruses. Our work introduces the drug booster cobicistat, which is approved by the FDA and typically used to potentiate the effect of anti-HIV protease inhibitors, as a candidate inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 replication. Beyond its direct activity as an antiviral, we show that cobicistat can enhance the effect of remdesivir, which was one of the first drugs proposed for treatment of SARS-CoV-2. Overall, the dual action of cobicistat as a direct antiviral and a drug booster can provide a new approach to design combination therapies and rescue the activity of compounds that are only partially effective in monotherapy.

COVID-19 , Hepatitis C, Chronic , Adenosine Monophosphate/analogs & derivatives , Alanine/analogs & derivatives , Animals , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use , COVID-19/drug therapy , Cobicistat , Cricetinae , Disease Progression , Humans , Mesocricetus , Pandemics , SARS-CoV-2 , Viral Load
Cell Rep ; 38(7): 110387, 2022 02 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1654154


SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) display enhanced transmissibility and resistance to antibody neutralization. Comparing the early 2020 isolate EU-1 to the VOCs Alpha, Beta, and Gamma in mice transgenic for human ACE2 reveals that VOCs induce a broadened scope of symptoms, expand systemic infection to the gastrointestinal tract, elicit the depletion of natural killer cells, and trigger variant-specific cytokine production patterns. Gamma infections result in accelerated disease progression associated with increased immune activation and inflammation. All four SARS-CoV-2 variants induce pDC depletion in the lungs, paralleled by reduced interferon responses. Remarkably, VOCs also use the murine ACE2 receptor for infection to replicate in the lungs of wild-type animals, which induce cellular and innate immune responses that apparently curtail the spread of overt disease. VOCs thus display distinct intrinsic pathogenic properties with broadened tissue and host range. The enhanced pathogenicity of VOCs and their potential for reverse zoonotic transmission pose challenges to clinical and pandemic management.

COVID-19/virology , Disease Models, Animal , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Animals , COVID-19/immunology , Cytokines/metabolism , Host Specificity , Immunity, Cellular , Immunity, Innate , Lung/immunology , Lung/virology , Mice , Species Specificity , Viral Load , Viral Tropism , Virulence , Virus Replication
Mol Ther ; 30(5): 2005-2023, 2022 05 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1621101


Despite rapid development and deployment of vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), clinically relevant modalities to curb the pandemic by directly attacking the virus on a genetic level remain highly desirable and are urgently needed. Here we comprehensively illustrate the capacity of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors co-expressing a cocktail of three short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs; RNAi triggers) directed against the SARS-CoV-2 RdRp and N genes as versatile and effective antiviral agents. In cultured monkey cells and human gut organoids, our most potent vector, SAVIOR (SARS virus repressor), suppressed SARS-CoV-2 infection to background levels. Strikingly, in control experiments using single shRNAs, multiple SARS-CoV-2 escape mutants quickly emerged from infected cells within 24-48 h. Importantly, such adverse viral adaptation was fully prevented with the triple-shRNA AAV vector even during long-term cultivation. In addition, AAV-SAVIOR efficiently purged SARS-CoV-2 in a new model of chronically infected human intestinal cells. Finally, intranasal AAV-SAVIOR delivery using an AAV9 capsid moderately diminished viral loads and/or alleviated disease symptoms in hACE2-transgenic or wild-type mice infected with human or mouse SARS-CoV-2 strains, respectively. Our combinatorial and customizable AAV/RNAi vector complements ongoing global efforts to control the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and holds great potential for clinical translation as an original and flexible preventive or therapeutic antiviral measure.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Antiviral Agents , COVID-19/prevention & control , Dependovirus , Mice , Pandemics , RNA Interference , RNA, Small Interfering/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics