Virology. 2021 Oct 2;564:33-38. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2021.09.009. Online ahead of print.
Endemic seasonal coronaviruses cause morbidity and mortality in a subset of patients, but no specific treatment is available. Molnupiravir is a promising pipeline antiviral drug for treating SARS-CoV-2 infection potentially by targeting RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp). This study aims to evaluate the potential of repurposing molnupiravir for treating seasonal human coronavirus (HCoV) infections. Molecular docking revealed that the active form of molnupiravir, β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (NHC), has similar binding affinity to RdRp of SARS-CoV-2 and seasonal HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-229E. In cell culture models, treatment of molnupiravir effectively inhibited viral replication and production of infectious viruses of the three seasonal coronaviruses. A time-of-drug-addition experiment indicates the specificity of molnupiravir in inhibiting viral components. Furthermore, combining molnupiravir with the protease inhibitor GC376 resulted in enhanced antiviral activity. Our findings highlight that the great potential of repurposing molnupiravir for treating seasonal coronavirus infected patients.