Pillar 10 Antiviral Strategies and Antiviral Therapeutics
This research project identifies berbamine dihydrochloride as a potent inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 entry and replication in human intestinal epithelial cells. Excitingly, berbamine displayed pan-SARS-CoV-2 antiviral activity by targeting machinery of the host autophagy pathway, including a striking nanomolar potency against SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariants. This work demonstrates that berbamine, a molecule derived from traditional Chinese medicinal herbs and under investigation for its anti-cancer properties, is a promising option for a cost-effective, over-the-counter antiviral that could be fast-tracked to reach COVID-19 patients.
This work also provides exciting mechanistic insights into the antiviral functioning of berbamine and underlines the relevancy of using autophagy-targeting antivirals. Host-directed therapies like these are an exciting alternative to direct-acting antivirals because they are able to boost cell-intrinsic antiviral defenses with a low likelihood of the development of drug resistance. Importantly, our collaborative research on the natural product berbamine is unraveling the importance of natural resources in discovering nature-based medicines to fight emerging viruses and is paving the way for innovative drug treatments against COVID-19 variants.