There is an urgent need to identify therapies that prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and improve the outcome of COVID-19 patients. Although repurposed drugs with favorable safety profiles could have significant benefit, widely available prevention or treatment options for COVID-19 have yet to be identified. Efforts to identify approved drugs with in vitro activity against SARS-CoV-2 resulted in identification of antiviral sigma-1 receptor ligands, including antihistamines in the histamine-1 receptor binding class. We identified antihistamine candidates for repurposing by mining electronic health records of usage in population of more than 219,000 subjects tested for SARS-CoV-2. Usage of diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine and azelastine was associated with reduced incidence of SARS-CoV-2 positivity in subjects greater than age 61. We found diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine and azelastine to exhibit direct antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Although mechanisms by which specific antihistamines exert antiviral effects is not clear, hydroxyzine, and possibly azelastine, bind Angiotensin Converting Enzyme-2 (ACE2) and the sigma-1 receptor as off-targets. Clinical studies are needed to measure the effectiveness of diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine and azelastine for disease prevention, for early intervention, or as adjuvant therapy for severe COVID-19.
Keywords: Angiotensin converting Enzyme-2; Docking; Repurposing; SARS-CoV-2; Sigma-1 receptor.
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