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HIV protease inhibitors Nelfinavir and Lopinavir/Ritonavir markedly improve lung pathology in SARS-CoV-2-infected Syrian hamsters despite lack of an antiviral effect
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
Nelfinavir is an HIV protease inhibitor that has been widely prescribed as a component of highly active antiretroviral therapy, and has been reported to exert in vitro antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2. We here assessed the effect of Nelfinavir in a SARS-CoV-2 infection model in hamsters. Despite the fact that Nelfinavir, [50 mg/kg twice daily (BID) for four consecutive days], did not reduce viral RNA load and infectious virus titres in the lung of infected animals, treatment resulted in a substantial improvement of SARS-CoV-2-induced lung pathology. This was accompanied by a dense infiltration of neutrophils in the lung interstitium which was similarly observed in non-infected hamsters. Nelfinavir resulted also in a marked increase in activated neutrophils in the blood, as observed in non-infected animals. Although Nelfinavir treatment did not alter the expression of chemoattractant receptors or adhesion molecules on human neutrophils, in vitro migration of human neutrophils to the major human neutrophil attractant CXCL8 was augmented by this protease inhibitor. Nelfinavir appears to induce an immunomodulatory effect associated with increasing neutrophil number and functionality, which may be linked to the marked improvement in SARS-CoV-2 lung pathology independent of its lack of antiviral activity. Since Nelfinavir is no longer used for the treatment of HIV, we studied the effect of two other HIV protease inhibitors, namely the combination Lopinavir/Ritonavir (Kaletra™) in this model. This combination resulted in a similar protective effect as Nelfinavir against SARS-CoV2 induced lung pathology in hamsters.
Journal: Antiviral Res