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Repurposing existing drugs as candidates for coronavirus treatment

A group of researchers has published a study in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases that summarizes already known scientific information on 119 broad-spectrum antiviral agents. These drugs have already been tested for use in humans.

The researchers suggest that repurposing these drugs to treat COVID-19 might be an effective strategy to quickly obtain effective coronavirus treatment, given that the time-frame for identifying and testing new drugs is too long in the face of the current worldwide spread of COVID-19. “Drug repurposing is a strategy for generating additional value from an existing drug by targeting diseases other than that for which it was originally intended,” accrding to Denis Kainov, associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). “For example, teicoplanin, oritavancin, dalbavancin, and monensin are approved antibiotics that have been shown to inhibit corona- and other viruses in the laboratory.”

The researchers reviewed the process of identifying and developing broad-spectrum antiviral agents – that is, antivirals that are effective against multiple viruses. They then provided information on 119 already known drugs that have been tested and found to be safe in humans. The researchers provided this information on a freely accessible database (

Specifically applicable to the current global challenge posed by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the researchers went on to describe 31 broad-spectrum antiviral agents that have potential as a coronavirus treatment.

The coronavirus family of viruses is made up of many viruses, including the more well-known SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV viruses, and the newly described 2019-nCoV (SARS-CoV-2). There are not currently approved drugs or vaccines specifically for treating coronavirus infections.

Antiviral drug candidates that have some scientific evidence to suggest potential effectiveness against 2019-nCoV included chloroquine and remdesivir. Remdesivir has already entered clinical trials for the treatment of 2019-nCoV.

In addition to these antiviral agents, the researchers suggest that according to available evidence, the already approved antibiotics oritavancin, dalbavancin, and monensin, and the anti-protozoal agent emetine have shown some antiviral activity specifically against the coronavirus family. Based on this evidence, the researchers suggest that these are prime candidates to repurpose as coronavirus treatment.

The researchers also reported that clinical trials have recently begun with possible drug candidates to treat 2019-nCoV infection. These include lopinavir, ritonavir, and remdesivir.

According to the researchers, making use of already available information and drugs that have been through scientific testing and approval processes could reduce the time and necessary resources in developing virus-specific antiviral treatments. This in turn could significantly impact on the global challenge of viral epidemics or pandemics, such as the 2019-nCoV.


Andersen PI, Ianevski A, Lysvand H, Vitkauskiene A, Oksenych V, Bjøras M, Telling K, Lutsar I, Dampis U, Irie Y, Tenson T, Kantele A, Kainov DE, Discovery and ˚ development of safe-in-man broad-spectrum antiviral agents, International Journal of Infectious Diseases (2020), doi:

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