TLR9 and COVID-19: A Multidisciplinary Theory of a Multifaceted Therapeutic Target

Front Pharmacol. 2021 Jan 15:11:601685. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2020.601685. eCollection 2020.


By mapping the clinical pathophysiology of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) against insights from virology, immunology, genomics, epidemiology and pharmacology, it is here proposed that the pathogen recognition receptor called toll like receptor 9 (TLR9) might have a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of COVID-19. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, is causing the greatest global social and economic disruption since world war II. Lack of a vaccine, lack of successful treatment and limitations of the healthcare workforce and resources needed to safeguard patients with severe COVID-19 on the edge of life, demands radical preventive measures. It is urgently needed to identify biomarkers and drug candidates so that vulnerable individuals can be recognized early and severe multi-organ complications can be prevented or dampened. The TLR9 COVID-19 hypothesis describes a mechanism of action that could explain a wide spectrum of manifestations observed in patients with severe COVID-19. The introduced hypothesis proposes biomarkers for identification of vulnerable individuals and positions TLR9 as a promising multifaceted intervention target for prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19. TLR9 agonists might have value as prophylactic vaccine adjuvants and therapeutic immune stimulators at the early onset of disease. Additionally, in this current manuscript it is proposed for the first time that TLR9 could be considered as a target of "inhibition" aimed to dampen hyperinflammation and thrombotic complications in vulnerable patients that are at risk of developing late stages of COVID-19. The readily availability of TLR9 modulating drug candidates that have reached clinical testing for other disorders could favor a fast track development scenario, an important advantage under the current high unmet medical need circumstances regarding COVID-19.

Keywords: biomarker; coronavirus disease 2019; drug target identification; immunology; mitochondrial DNA; pathophysiology; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; toll-like receptor 9.