In a new study, researchers found that the leprosy drug clofazimine, which is FDA approved, can fight against SARS-CoV-2 and prevents the exaggerated inflammatory response in severe COVID-19.
Based on these findings, a Phase 2 study evaluating clofazimine as an at-home treatment for COVID-19 could begin immediately.
The research was conducted by scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and elsewhere.
Clofazimine was discovered in 1954 and is used to treat leprosy.
The drug was initially identified by screening one of the world’s largest collections of known drugs for their ability to block the replication of SARS-CoV-2.
The team previously found that clofazimine was one of 21 drugs effective in vitro, or in a lab dish, at concentrations that could most likely be safely achieved in patients.
In this study, the researchers tested clofazimine in hamsters—an animal model for COVID-19—that were infected with SARS-CoV-2.
They found that clofazimine lowered the amount of virus in the lungs, including when given to healthy animals prior to infection (prophylactically).
The drug also reduced lung damage and prevented “cytokine storm,” an overwhelming inflammatory response to SARS-CoV-2 that can be deadly.
Clofazimine also worked with remdesivir, the current standard-of-care treatment for people who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, when given to hamsters infected with SARS-CoV-2.
The team says that clofazimine stops SARS-CoV-2 infection in two ways: blocking its entry into cells and disrupting RNA replication (SARS-CoV-2 uses RNA to replicate).
These findings suggest a potential opportunity to stretch the availability of remdesivir, which is costly and in limited supply.
Clofazimine is an ideal candidate for a COVID-19 treatment. It is safe, affordable, easy to make, taken as a pill and can be made globally available.
One author of the study is Sumit Chanda, Ph.D.
The study is published in Nature.
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