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Authors:Douglas Ferreira Sales-Medina et al.,  

Journal/ Pre-Print:bioRxiv 

Tags: Bioinformatics, Drug discovery/Drug repurpose, Therapeutics 

Research Highlights 

  1. Development of an assay to screen clinically approved compounds for antiviral activity against SARS-CoV2.  

  1. Discovery of 4 drugs that inhibit SARS-CoV2 infectionbrequinar, abiraterone acetate, neomycin, and the extract of Hedera helix.  

  1. Functional and network analysis integrate drug activity with known host-virus-interactions. 


Sales-Medina et al. developed a microscopy-based screening assay in Vero E6 cells for the discovery of anti-SARS-CoV2 compounds. The authors validated their assay with three drugs already reported to have antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 in vitroBy measuring effects on infection and cytotoxicity of 65 clinically approved drugs, the authors identified four drugs which showed selective inhibition of SARS-CoV2 in vitrobrequinar, abiraterone acetate, neomycin and the extract of Hedera helix. Using a data mining-based computational approach, the authors built a drug-molecules-disease/function network to show possible mechanisms of action for the four identified drugs.  

Impact for SARS-CoV2/COVID19 research efforts  

Treatment of SARS-CoV2-infected individuals / COVID19 patients (repurposing known antivirals to treat SARS-CoV2).  

Study Type  

  • In silico study / bioinformatics study 

  • In vitro study 

Strengths and limitations of the paper 

Novelty: Four previously unreported and effective (in vitro) drugs identified as potential candidates for SARS-CoV2 treatment. Antibodies from sera from convalescent SARS-CoV2 patients used in the assay as shown to have higher sensitivity than commercially available antibodies. 

Standing in the field:The drugs previously discovered to treat SARS-CoV2 infection are well summarised and are compared to the novel compounds.  

Appropriate statistics: Not stated how many technical replicates were performed, statistics not described. 

Viral model used:SARS-CoV-2/SP02/human/2020/BRA  

Translatability:Identified drugs may be useful for repurposing/redesigning for the treatment of SARS-CoV2. The cellular network could be used to integrate other drugs currently in testing (e.g. remdesivir) 

Main limitations: Replicates not stated, statistics not presented, cell line used may not be the most relevant for SARS-CoV2 infection, in vitro activity does not always translate into in vivo activity, why drugs applied before virus infection?