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Prophylactic and Therapeutic Inhibition of In Vitro SARS-CoV-2 Replication by Oleandrin

OPEN bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology | 24 Jul 2020

KS Plante, JA Plante, D Fernandez, D Mirchandani, N Bopp, PV Aguilar, KJ Sastry, RA Newman and SC Weaver
With continued expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic, antiviral drugs are desperately needed to treat patients at high risk of life-threatening disease and even to limit spread if administered early during infection. Typically, the fastest route to identifying and licensing a safe and effective antiviral drug is to test those already shown safe in early clinical trials for other infections or diseases. Here, we tested in vitro oleandrin, derived from the Nerium oleander plant and shown previously to have inhibitory activity against several viruses. Using Vero cells, we found that prophylactic oleandrin administration at concentrations down to 0.05 μg/ml exhibited potent antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, with an 800-fold reduction in virus production, and a 0.1 μg/ml dose resulted in a greater than 3,000-fold reduction in infectious virus production. The EC 50 values were 11.98ng/ml when virus output was measured at 24 hours post-infection, and 7.07ng/ml measured at 48 hours post-infection. Therapeutic (post-infection) treatment up to 24 hours after infection of Vero cells also reduced viral titers, with the 0.1 μg/ml dose causing greater than 100-fold reductions as measured at 48 hours, and the 0.05 μg/ml dose resulting in a 78-fold reduction. The potent prophylactic and therapeutic antiviral activities demonstrated here strongly support the further development of oleandrin to reduce the severity of COVID-19 and potentially also to reduce spread by persons diagnosed early after infection.
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