Inhibition of novel β coronavirus replication by a combination of interferon-α2b and ribavirin

Sci Rep. 2013;3:1686. doi: 10.1038/srep01686.


The identification of a novel β coronavirus, nCoV, as the causative agent of severe respiratory illness in humans originating in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan has raised concerns about the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic similar to that of SARS-CoV. As a definitive treatment regimen has never been thoroughly evaluated for coronavirus infections, there is an urgent need to rapidly identify potential therapeutics to address future cases of nCoV. To determine an intervention strategy, the effect of interferon-α2b and ribavirin on nCoV isolate hCoV-EMC/2012 replication in Vero and LLC-MK2 cells was evaluated. hCoV-EMC/2012 was sensitive to both interferon-α2b and ribavirin alone in Vero and LLC-MK2 cells, but only at relatively high concentrations; however, when combined, lower concentrations of interferon-α2b and ribavirin achieved comparable endpoints. Thus, a combination of interferon-α2b and ribavirin, which are already commonly used in the clinic, may be useful for patient management in the event of future nCoV infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Coronavirus / drug effects*
  • Coronavirus / physiology*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Interferon-alpha / administration & dosage*
  • Ribavirin / administration & dosage*
  • Vero Cells
  • Virus Replication / drug effects
  • Virus Replication / physiology*


  • Drug Combinations
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Ribavirin