„Side effects” of some pharmaceuticals are researched as medicines against COVID-19

Chemicals that are designed for one particular purpose can have unexpected side effects – often adverse, sometimes useful. For example, according to anecdotal evidence one of the SARMs (that is not even scientifically tested in humans) can tint the vision green or yellow. However, it is not the side effects of SARMs this post will be about. This post is about current coronavirus COVID-19 or SARS-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2), a very close relative of coronavirus that caused SARS, and somewhat less close relative to very lethal MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and research pertaining to possible treatment.

As concerns the coronaviruses, chemical informatics has revealed that a molecule that has been designed as a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator) could be repurposed as a medicine against novel coronavirus [1]. Of course, a computer analysis is not comparable to the rigour of actual human study but the model seems to be legit. Some other molecules found by informatics approach include emodin that has been found as a drug candidate in an earlier study [2]. Emodin is not a SARM, though, it is principally a a molecule that is responsible for laxative and estrogenic properties of certain medicinal rhubarb species. Of note, also melatonin was a „hit” in the analyses that matched coronavirus against the drug database. No experimental data on melatonin and coronavirus was found from scientific literature, though. Nevertheless, in the melatonin is considered as a potential treatment in another white paper [3] and one of the potential mechanisms might be that melatonin does not allow the COVID-19 to kill off the hosts’ T-cells so easily [4]. It seems likely that elderberries may have the same mechanism combating the upper respiratory tract viruses [5]. The other effect of melatonin that may facilitate the favourable income include protection from reactive nitrogen species. Indeed, in addition to direct antiviral mechanisms, immune stimulation and immune stimulant drugs [6] are also considered, and the most promising one, interferon beta-1 peptide is indeed a working solution against coronavirus, and included into medical guidelines [7]. It is known that lack of interferon beta is responsible for lethal pneumonia [8], which is the key difference between serious and non-serious coronavirus infections.

MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus was tested against several drugs. In that study, a drug against malaria, chloroquine, and a drug against parasites, nitazoxanide, also had a „side effect” against the virus that caused MERS, and these two were more than order of magnitude more selective and potent (in vitro, at least) against MERS than most of the antiviral drugs that are used in the hospitals against COVID coronavirus now [9]. Lately, chloroquine has been added to several treatment guidelines, and the United Kingdom banned the export of chloroquine [10]. A now rather uncommon drug that was formerly used to treat arthritis, indomethacin was very effective in treating both SARS and dogs’ coronavirus in dogs [11] and there is an impressive list of potential molecules that could help against coronavirus in the very earliest research phase [12].

Finally, a list of food supplements has been published that has been suggested to ameliorate respiratory tract infections caused by RNA viruses such as influenza and coronavirus in general [13]:

Substance Dose
Ferulic acid 500-1000 mg
Lipoic acid 1200-1800 mg (in place of ferulic acid)
Spirulina 15 g (or 100 mg PCB)
N-Acetylcysteine 1200–1,800 mg
Selenium 50-100 mcg
Glucosamine 3,000 mg or more
Zinc 30-50 mg
Yeast Beta-Glucan 250-500 mg
Elderberry 600–1500 mg

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32194980
[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024320520303313
[4] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1600-079X.2003.00105.x
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31560964
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32205350
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32164424
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26867177
[9] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41422-020-0282-0
[10] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/medicines-that-cannot-be-parallel-exported-from-the-uk
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17302372
[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195804/
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32061635