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Antiviral Activity of Cinchona officinalis, a Homeopathic Medicine, against COVID-19.

BACKGROUND:  Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a potentially fatal disease caused by the novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Several studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) significantly inhibits SARS-CoV-2 infections in vitro .

OBJECTIVE:  Since the phytoconstituents of Cinchona officinalis (CO) are similar to those of HCQ, the objective of this study was to test the antiviral potential of different homeopathic formulations of CO.

METHODS:  An analysis of the molecular composition of CO was carried out using ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry, followed by a detailed docking study. The constituents of CO were docked against various targets of SARS-CoV-2, and the binding potential of the phytoconstituents was compared and quantified. The ligand with the lowest Glide docking score is considered to have the best binding affinity. The cytotoxicity of several homeopathic formulations, including CO mother tincture (CO-MT), was also checked on VeroE6 cells. A known antiviral, remdesivir, was used as a positive control for the in vitro assays to evaluate the effects of CO-MT against SARS-CoV-2-infected VeroE6 cells.

RESULTS:  Molecular docking studies showed that constituents of CO exhibited binding potential to various targets of SARS-CoV-2, including Mpro, PLpro, RdRp, nucleocapsid protein, ACE2 (in host) and spike protein. Quinoline, one of the constituents of CO, can potentially bind the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Quinic acid showed better binding capabilities with Mpro, PLpro RdRp, nucleocapsid protein and ACE2 (allosteric site) than other constituents. Quinidine exhibited better binding to ACE2. Compared to HCQ, other phytoconstituents of CO had the equivalent potential to bind the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, nucleocapsid protein, Mpro, PLpro and spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. In vitro assays showed that homeopathic CO-MT was not cytotoxic and that CO-MT and remdesivir respectively caused 89% and 99% inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 infection in VeroE6 cells.

CONCLUSION:  Based on this in silico and in vitro evidence, we propose CO-MT as a promising antiviral medicine candidate for treating COVID-19. In vivo investigation is required to clarify the therapeutic potential of CO-MT in COVID-19.

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