LILLE, France — An affordable antibiotic which treats respiratory infections may be able to defeat COVID-19, according to a new study.
In experiments, researchers in France say clofoctol reduced virus replication and lung symptoms in mice.
“The antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of clofoctol, associated with its safety profile and unique pharmacokinetics make a strong case for proposing clofoctol as an affordable therapeutic candidate for the treatment of COVID-19 patients,” study authors say in a media release.
Vaccines have been able to curb the pandemic to a large degree. However, there is still a huge need for drugs which can treat coronavirus among people who contract it. Immunity can wane and access to the COVID vaccine is still a major problem around the world. Also, less protection to new variants emphasizes the possible need for a back-up.
Repurposed drugs may have a speedier path to clinical use because they have already been shown to be safe in people and have received government approval. The study in PLOS Pathogens suggests clofoctol may be an effective therapy ready for use in the near future.
Clofoctol attacks COVID at a genetic level
COVID jabs reduce hospitalizations and death, but they do not control virus transmission — making affordable medications still a necessity.
The French team accessed data from the Apteeus library, a collection of 1,942 approved drugs, to identify molecules that exhibit antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
They selected clofoctol based on its antiviral potency and tested their idea on infected mice. Lab rodents given clofoctol had a decreased viral load, reduced inflammatory gene expression, and less lung disease.
“Antivirals targeting SARS-CoV-2 are sorely needed,” adds study co-author Jean Dubuisson from the Pasteur Institute. “In this study, we screened a library of drug compounds and identified clofoctol as an antiviral against SARS-CoV-2. We further demonstrated that, in vivo, this compound reduces inflammatory gene expression and lowers pulmonary pathology and decreases viral load.”
Future studies are necessary to further understand the drug’s therapeutic potential in patients because of the physiological differences between mice and humans. Additionally, the animals were sacrificed only two days after treatment, so longer-term effects remain unknown.
“Finally, the relatively low cost of this drug suggests that it is a potential clinical option for treatment of COVID-19 patients in resource-poor settings,” the researchers conclude.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.