A possible application of hinokitiol as a natural zinc ionophore and anti-infective agent for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and viral infections

Med Hypotheses. 2020 Dec:145:110333. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2020.110333. Epub 2020 Oct 5.


Zinc and the combination with zinc ionophore have been reported in basic research and several clinical investigations as a potentially viable and economical preventive and therapeutic options for COVID-19 treatment. Zinc is a vital microelement that actively supports respiratory epithelium barrier integrity, innate and adaptive immune functions, and inflammatory regulations. Moreover, zinc may also prevent viral entry, suppress viral replication, and mitigate the damages due to oxidative stress and hyperinflammatory reaction in patients with respiratory infections. Hinokitiol (β-thujaplicin) is a natural monoterpenoid and is considered as a safe zinc ionophore to help zinc transport into cells. It has been widely used in skin and oral care, and therapeutic products for its potent antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer applications. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the significant morbidity and mortality exist in the high-risk group of patients associated with other respiratory infections such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and dengue fever. There is an urgent need for the development of inexpensive, safe, and effective therapeutics to prevent and treat these viral infections. Considering that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the most studied zinc ionophore drug for COVID-19, is linked to potentially serious side effects, we propose the implementation of hinokitiol as a zinc ionophore and anti-infective agent for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and other viral infections.

Keywords: Antiviral; COVID-19; Hinokitiol; SARS-COV-2; Zinc; Zinc ionophore.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / pharmacology
  • Ionophores / therapeutic use*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Monoterpenes / therapeutic use*
  • Risk
  • Tropolone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Tropolone / therapeutic use
  • Zinc / chemistry*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Ionophores
  • Monoterpenes
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Tropolone
  • Zinc
  • beta-thujaplicin