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Old Drugs for a New Virus: Repurposed Approaches for Combating COVID-19

  • Saul, Sirle
  • Einav, Shirit
Published Article
ACS Infectious Diseases
American Chemical Society
Publication Date
Jul 20, 2020
DOI: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.0c00343
PMID: 32687696
PMCID: PMC7416635
PubMed Central


There is a large global unmet need for effective countermeasures to combat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The development of novel antiviral drugs is expensive and too slow to meet the immediate need. The repurposing of drugs that are approved or are under advanced clinical investigation provides a cost- and time-effective therapeutic solution. This review summarizes the major repurposed approaches that have been proposed or are already being studied in clinical trials for COVID-19. Among these approaches are drugs that aim to reduce SARS-CoV-2 replication by targeting either viral enzymatic functions or cellular factors required for the viral life cycle. Drugs that modulate the host immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection by boosting it to enhance viral clearance or by suppressing it to prevent excessive inflammation and tissue injury represent another category. Lastly, we discuss means to discover repurposed drugs and the ongoing challenges associated with the off-label use of existing drugs in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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