Antiviral properties of the NSAID drug naproxen targeting the nucleoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus


There is an urgent need for specific antiviral treatments directed against SARS-CoV-2 to prevent the most severe forms of COVID-19. By drug repurposing, affordable therapeutics could be supplied worldwide in the present pandemic context. Targeting the nucleoprotein N of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could be a strategy to impede viral replication and possibly other essential functions associated with viral N [1-2]. Viral infection activates a cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inflammatory cascade that is most marked in the initial inflammatory phase. SARS-CoV-2 infection also up-regulates COX-2 in human cell culture and mouse models (3]. The effectiveness of COX-1/ COX-2 inhibition by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen discouraging the inflammasome activation could limit the cytokine storm. The antiviral properties of naproxen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that was previously demonstrated to be active against Influenza A virus [4-5], were evaluated against SARS-CoV-2. Intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy, fluorescence anisotropy, and dynamic light scattering assays demonstrated naproxen binding to the nucleoprotein of SARS-Cov-2 as predicted by molecular modeling. Naproxen impeded recombinant N oligomerization and inhibited viral replication in infected cells. In VeroE6 cells and reconstituted human primary respiratory epithelium models of SARS-CoV-2 infection, naproxen specifically inhibited viral replication and protected the bronchial epithelia against SARS-CoV-2 induced-damage. No inhibition of viral replication was observed with paracetamol or the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib. Thus, among the NSAID tested, only naproxen combined antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Naproxen addition to the standard of care could beneficial in a clinical setting.

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