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 SARS-CoV-2 could improve treatment of COVID-19. We evaluated efficacy of clinically relevant hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3 protease inhibitors (PI) against SARS-CoV-2 and their interactions with remdesivir, the only direct-acting antiviral approved for COVID-19 treatment. HCV PI showed differential potency in short-term treatment assays based on detection of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein in VeroE6 cells. Linear PI boceprevir, telaprevir and narlaprevir had 50% effective concentrations (EC50) of ∼40 μM. Among macrocyclic PI, 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 PI asunaprevir and faldaprevir had EC50 of 72 and 23 μM, respectively. ACH-806, inhibiting the HCV NS4A protease cofactor, had 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 PI. In short-term treatments, combination of macrocyclic but not linear PI with remdesivir showed synergism in VeroE6 and A549-hACE2 cells. Longer-term treatment of infected VeroE6 and A549-hACE2 cells with 1-fold EC50 PI revealed minor differences in 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 development and application of protease inhibitors for optimized antiviral treatments of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02680-20
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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