A recent study from the University of Georgia suggests a common gout medicine could be used to fight COVID-19 infection.1
The medicine, probenecid, is available commercially and has a relatively safe history in clinical use.2 This history is an advantage compared to newly developed drugs because the risk of experiencing adverse effects may be lower.
Probenecid decreases COVID-19 viral replication
The research group led by Ralph Tripp, GRA Eminent Scholar of Vaccine and Therapeutic Studies at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, identified a gene in human cells that contributes to viral replication. The gene, organic anion transporter three gene (OAT3) is inhibited by probenecid. They treated normal and disease bronchial epithelial cells (NHBE)– cells that line the respiratory system – and a type of kidney cell called Vero cells (VC) with probenecid. Treatment with probenecid reduced COVID-19 replication in NHBE by 90% and in VC by 60% in these experimental systems.1
Hamster models were treated with gout medicine, probenecid, to verify if this medication reduces COVID-19 infection in living systems. The hamsters that were treated with this medication showed significantly reduced viral concentrations in their lungs compared to control groups.
Throughout the study, there were no toxic effects observed as a result of using probenecid. The highest doses used in the study did not exceed the FDA approved dose.
The reduction in COVID-19 viral replication by this gout medicine is a significant finding and may suggest that it could be used in the future for treating mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. Currently, only vaccines are available to the general public to combat COVID-19 infection.1 There is a drug called Remdesivir that has been approved by the FDA for emergency use only. Although Remdesivir has been shown to decrease recovery time for COVID-19 patients,3 it is only approved for use through IV administration for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
“These treatments have seen some effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, but they’re very expensive and very hard to come by. In reality, there are only a handful of options that can actually be used because of the cost, restricted IV usage, and lack of access. That’s not very useful to the world,” Ralph Tripp commented.4
Probenecid has a relatively safe clinical history and widespread availability. With its ability to significantly reduce COVID-19 replication, this gout medicine has the potential to treat more COVID-19 cases than can be treated currently. More studies are needed to see whether there are benefits for people with COVID-19 before this becomes a treatment option.
- Murray, J. et al. (2021). Probenecid inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication in vivo and in vitro. Scientific Reports, Nature; 11: 18085. Doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97658-w.
- Strilchuk, L. et al. (2018). Safety and tolerability of available urate-lowering drugs: a critical review. Expert Opinion of Drug Safety; 18(4): 261-271. Doi: 10.1080/14740338.2019.1594771.
- Ison, M.G. et al. (2020). Emergency Use Authorization of Remdesivir, The Need for a Transparent Distribution Process. JAMA; 323(23): 2365-2366. Doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.8863.
- Hataway, J. (2021). Medicine that treats gout could also battle COVID-19. EurekAlert! Accessed Sept. 16, 2021. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/927850.
- Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay