Revealing the targets and mechanisms of vitamin A in the treatment of COVID-19

Aging (Albany NY). 2020 Aug 15;12(15):15784-15796. doi: 10.18632/aging.103888. Epub 2020 Aug 15.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), an epidemic disease characterized by rapid infection and a high death toll. The clinical diagnosis of patients with COVID-19 has risen sharply, especially in Western countries. Globally, an effective treatment for COVID-19 is still limited. Vitamin A (VA) exhibits pharmacological activity in the management of pneumonia. Thus, we reason that VA may potentially serve as an anti-SARS-CoV-2 regimen. In this study, bioinformatics analysis and computation assays using a network pharmacology method were conducted to explore and uncover the therapeutic targets and mechanisms of VA for treating COVID-19. We identified candidate targets, pharmacological functions, and therapeutic pathways of VA against SARS-CoV-2. Bioinformatics findings indicate that the mechanisms of action of VA against SARS-CoV-2 include enrichment of immunoreaction, inhibition of inflammatory reaction, and biological processes related to reactive oxygen species. Furthermore, seven core targets of VA against COVID-19, including MAPK1, IL10, EGFR, ICAM1, MAPK14, CAT, and PRKCB were identified. With this bioinformatics-based report, we reveal, for the first time, the anti-SARS-CoV-2 functions and mechanisms of VA and suggest that VA may act as a potent treatment option for COVID-19, a deadly global epidemic.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; mechanism; network pharmacology; target; vitamin A; COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus* / drug effects
  • Betacoronavirus* / genetics
  • Betacoronavirus* / physiology
  • Biological Availability
  • COVID-19
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Coronavirus Infections* / drug therapy
  • Coronavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / immunology
  • Gene Ontology
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects*
  • Inflammation* / drug therapy
  • Inflammation* / etiology
  • Inflammation* / immunology
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Vitamin A* / pharmacokinetics
  • Vitamin A* / therapeutic use
  • Vitamins / pharmacokinetics
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin A