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Hepatitis C Virus Protease Inhibitors Show Differential Efficacy and Interactions with Remdesivir for Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 in Vitro

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Antivirals targeting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) could improve treatment of COVID-19. We evaluated the efficacy of clinically relevant hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3 protease inhibitors (PIs) against SARS-CoV-2 and their interactions with remdesivir, the only direct-acting antiviral approved for COVID-19 treatment. HCV PIs showed differential potency in short-term treatment assays based on the detection of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in Vero E6 cells. Linear PIs boceprevir, telaprevir, and narlaprevir had 50% effective concentrations (EC50) of ∼40 μM. Among the macrocyclic PIs, simeprevir had the highest (EC50, 15 μM) and glecaprevir the lowest (EC50, >178 μM) potency, with paritaprevir, grazoprevir, voxilaprevir, vaniprevir, danoprevir, and deldeprevir in between. Acyclic PIs asunaprevir and faldaprevir had EC50s of 72 and 23 μM, respectively. ACH-806, inhibiting the HCV NS4A protease cofactor, had an EC50 of 46 μM. Similar and slightly increased PI potencies were found in human hepatoma Huh7.5 cells and human lung carcinoma A549-hACE2 cells, respectively. Selectivity indexes based on antiviral and cell viability assays were highest for linear PIs. In short-term treatments, combination of macrocyclic but not linear PIs with remdesivir showed synergism in Vero E6 and A549-hACE2 cells. Longer-term treatment of infected Vero E6 and A549-hACE2 cells with 1-fold EC50 PI revealed minor differences in the barrier to SARS-CoV-2 escape. Viral suppression was achieved with 3- to 8-fold EC50 boceprevir or 1-fold EC50 simeprevir or grazoprevir, but not boceprevir, in combination with 0.4- to 0.8-fold EC50 remdesivir; these concentrations did not lead to viral suppression in single treatments. This study could inform the development and application of protease inhibitors for optimized antiviral treatments of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0268020
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2021

    Research areas

  • Antiviral, Combination treatment, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Repurposing, Synergy

ID: 66134842