Reviving chloroquine for anti-SARS-CoV-2 treatment with cucurbit[7]uril-based supramolecular formulation

Chin Chem Lett. 2021 Oct;32(10):3019-3022. doi: 10.1016/j.cclet.2021.04.008. Epub 2021 Apr 3.


The wide-spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus has put the world into boiling water for more than a year, however pharmacological therapies to act effectively against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remain elusive. Chloroquine (CQ), an antimalarial drug, was found to exhibit promising antiviral activity in vitro and in vivo at a high dosage, thus CQ was approved by the FDA for the emergency use authorization (EUA) in the fight against COVID-19 in the US, but later was revoked the EUA status due to the severe clinical toxicity. Herein, we show that supramolecular formulation of CQ by a macrocyclic host, curcurbit[7]uril (CB[7]), reduced its non-specific toxicity and improved its antiviral activity against coronavirus, working in synergy with CB[7]. CB[7] was found to form 1:1 host-guest complexes with CQ, with a binding constant of ∼104 L/mol. The CQ-CB[7] formulation decreased the cytotoxicity of CQ against Vero E6 and L-02 cell lines. In particular, the cytotoxicity of CQ (60 μmol/L) against both Vero E6 cell line and L-02 cell lines was completely inhibited in the presence of 300 μmol/L and 600 μmol/L CB[7], respectively. Furthermore, the CB[7] alone showed astonishing antiviral activity in SARS-CoV-2 infected Vero E6 cells and mouse hepatitis virus strain A59 (MHV-A59) infected N2A cells, and synergistically improved the antiviral activity of CQ-CB[7], suggesting that CB[7]-based CQ formulation has a great potential as a safe and effective antiviral agent against SARS-CoV-2 and other coronavirus.

Keywords: COVID-19; Chloroquine; Cucurbit[7]uril; Host-guest; SARS-CoV-2.