nitric oxide coronavirus

Researchers explore the potential antiviral effects of nitric oxide against the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, scientists all over the world are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine or treatment. The speed and severity of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus’s spread around the world has placed an urgent need for an effective therapy. Unfortunately, to date, there are still no effective therapies for preventing an infection with the virus infection or for treating COVID-19.

Nitric oxide (NO) is a naturally occurring compound that is also produced in the body known to have a wide range of antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungi, and viruses among other things. Previously, nitric oxide has been shown as an effective agent against SARS-CoV (the coronavirus responsible for the 2003 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome – SARS) in lab cell studies and in a small clinical trial involving inhalation of the compound. During the SARS outbreak, nitric oxide was given as an inhaled gas to treat SARS patients with success, particularly because of nitric oxide’s ability to decrease lung inflammation in these patients. The success seen in previous studies with nitric oxide against the SARS coronavirus suggests the potential for similar success against SARS-CoV-2.

In a recent study published in Redox Biology, scientists in Sweden explored nitric oxide’s potential as a treatment against the coronavirus in laboratory cell studies. The scientists specifically focused on examining the antiviral effects nitric oxide had on cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. They found that nitric oxide inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in infected cells in a dose dependent manner, proving that nitric oxide possesses antiviral effects on the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in a manner likely similar to its antiviral effects against SARS-CoV. The scientists also identified a potential target – SARS-CoV-2 main protease – for future therapeutic developments, including nitric oxide.

While this present study highlights the antiviral potential of nitric oxide on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, there is much more research to be investigated and studied before any recommendations on the clinical use of nitric oxide in patients diagnosed with COVID-19 can be made. The researchers’ next steps are to study whether the antiviral benefits of nitric oxide as seen in this present study are the same when it is inhaled as a gas.

Written by Maggie Leung, PharmD


Akaberi, D., Krambrich, J., Ling, J., Luni, C., Hedenstierna, G., Järhult, J. D., . . . Lundkvist, Å. (2020). Mitigation of the replication of SARS-CoV-2 by nitric oxide in vitro. Redox Biology, 37, 101734. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2020.101734

Nitric oxide a possible treatment for COVID-19. (2020, October 2). Retrieved from

Image by visuals3Dde from Pixabay 

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