Quinacrine, an Antimalarial Drug with Strong Activity Inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 Viral Replication In Vitro

Mónica Salas Rojas, Raúl Silva Garcia, Estela Bini, Verónica Pérez de la Cruz, Juan Carlos León Contreras, Rogelio Hernández Pando, Fernando Bastida Gonzalez, Eduardo Davila-Gonzalez, Mario Orozco Morales, Armando Gamboa Domínguez, Julio Sotelo, Benjamín Pineda
Viruses 2021 January 17, 13 (1)
Quinacrine (Qx), a molecule used as an antimalarial, has shown anticancer, antiprion, and antiviral activity. The most relevant antiviral activities of Qx are related to its ability to raise pH in acidic organelles, diminishing viral enzymatic activity for viral cell entry, and its ability to bind to viral DNA and RNA. Moreover, Qx has been used as an immunomodulator in cutaneous lupus erythematosus and various rheumatological diseases, by inhibiting phospholipase A2 modulating the Th1/Th2 response. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential antiviral effect of Qx against denominated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection in Vero E6 cells. The cytotoxicity of Qx in Vero E6 cells was determined by the MTT assay. Afterwards, Vero E6 cells were infected with SARS-CoV-2 at different multiplicities of infections (MOIs) of 0.1 and 0.01 in the presence of Qx (0-30 µM) to determinate the half maximal effective concentration (EC50 ). After 48 h, the effect of Qx against SARS-CoV-2 was assessed by viral cytotoxicity and viral copy numbers, the last were determined by digital real-time RT-PCR (ddRT-PCR). Additionally, electron and confocal microscopy of Vero E6 cells infected and treated with Qx was studied. Our data show that Qx reduces SARS-CoV-2 virus replication and virus cytotoxicity, apparently by inhibition of viral ensemble, as observed by ultrastructural images, suggesting that Qx could be a potential drug for further clinical studies against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection.

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