medRxiv. 2021 Jan 12:2021.01.05.21249237. doi: 10.1101/2021.01.05.21249237. Preprint.
Pandemic SARS-CoV-2 causes a mild to severe respiratory disease called Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Control of SARS-CoV-2 spread will depend on vaccine-induced or naturally acquired protective herd immunity. Until then, antiviral strategies are needed to manage COVID-19, but approved antiviral treatments, such as remdesivir, can only be delivered intravenously. Enisamium (laboratory code FAV00A, trade name Amizon®) is an orally active inhibitor of influenza A and B viruses in cell culture and clinically approved in countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Here we show that enisamium can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infections in NHBE and Caco-2 cells. In vitro , the previously identified enisamium metabolite VR17-04 directly inhibits the activity of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA polymerase. Docking and molecular dynamics simulations suggest that VR17-04 prevents GTP and UTP incorporation. To confirm enisamium's antiviral properties, we conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in adult, hospitalized COVID-19 patients, which needed medical care either with or without supplementary oxygen. Patients received either enisamium (500 mg per dose) or placebo for 7 days. A pre-planned interim analysis showed in the subgroup of patients needing supplementary oxygen (n = 77) in the enisamium group a mean recovery time of 11.1 days, compared to 13.9 days for the placebo group (log-rank test; p=0.0259). No significant difference was found for all patients (n = 373) or those only needing medical care (n = 296). These results thus suggest that enisamium is an inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 RNA synthesis and that enisamium treatment shortens the time to recovery for COVID-19 patients needing oxygen.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent of COVID-19. Although vaccines are now becoming available to prevent SARS-CoV-2 spread, the development of antivirals remains necessary for treating current COVID-19 patients and combating future coronavirus outbreaks. Here, we report that enisamium, which can be administered orally, can prevent SARS-CoV-2 replication and that its metabolite VR17-04 can inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 RNA polymerase in vitro . Moreover, we find that COVID-19 patients requiring supplementary oxygen, recover more quickly than patients treated with a placebo. Enisamium may therefore be an accessible treatment for COVID-19 patients.