Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors: Could They Be Beneficial for the Treatment of COVID-19?

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jul 27;21(15):5338. doi: 10.3390/ijms21155338.


In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV2) infection to be a pandemic disease. SARS-CoV2 was first identified in China and, despite the restrictive measures adopted, the epidemic has spread globally, becoming a pandemic in a very short time. Though there is growing knowledge of the SARS-CoV2 infection and its clinical manifestations, an effective cure to limit its acute symptoms and its severe complications has not yet been found. Given the worldwide health and economic emergency issues accompanying this pandemic, there is an absolute urgency to identify effective treatments and reduce the post infection outcomes. In this context, phosphodiesterases (PDEs), evolutionarily conserved cyclic nucleotide (cAMP/cGMP) hydrolyzing enzymes, could emerge as new potential targets. Given their extended distribution and modulating role in nearly all organs and cellular environments, a large number of drugs (PDE inhibitors) have been developed to control the specific functions of each PDE family. These PDE inhibitors have already been used in the treatment of pathologies that show clinical signs and symptoms completely or partially overlapping with post-COVID-19 conditions (e.g., thrombosis, inflammation, fibrosis), while new PDE-selective or pan-selective inhibitors are currently under study. This review discusses the state of the art of the different pathologies currently treated with phosphodiesterase inhibitors, highlighting the numerous similarities with the disorders linked to SARS-CoV2 infection, to support the hypothesis that PDE inhibitors, alone or in combination with other drugs, could be beneficial for the treatment of COVID-19.

Keywords: PDE; SARS-CoV-2; cAMP; cGMP; coronavirus; cytokine storm; fibrosis; inflammation; pan-selective inhibitors; pneumonia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / drug effects
  • COVID-19
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / etiology
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / prevention & control*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors