What existing drugs are currently being evaluated or repurposed for treatment of Coronavirus (Covid-19) infection?

There are currently no drugs specifically approved for treatment of Covid-19 infections. However, there are legions of therapies that are being considered, tried, and/or evaluated in clinical trials. Many experts believe a combination of drugs may be necessary for optimal therapy. Here is my select list of potentially promising drugs from gleaning the literature and online resources to date.1-16

  • Remdisivir: A broad spectrum investigational nucleoside analogue, originally developed to treat a variety of viruses, including Ebola, SARS and MERS. Active in vitro against Covid-19. Favorable results have been reported in some cases, including the first reported patient in the U.S.
  • Chloroquine: An old drug used for its antimalarial activity as well as for its immune modulation and anti-inflammatory properties. Has also been found to be active in mice against a variety of viruses, including certain enteroviruses, Zika virus, influenza A H5N1.  Active in vitro against Covid-19, though hydroxychloroquine may be more effective. Evidence for its efficacy in treating acute viral infections in humans is currently lacking.
  • Lopinavir/ritonavir: Protease inhibitor combo used in HIV infection with possibly some benefit in the treatment of SARS. Recent study showed no significant efficacy in severe Covid-19 disease. 
  • Interferon-alpha: An antiviral cytokine used against hepatitis B and C viruses. May be more effective for prophylaxis than post-exposure, based on experimental animal studies involving SARS.
  • Ribavirin: Another nucleoside analogue approved for hepatitis C (in combination with other drugs) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections but also evaluated in SARS and MERS. Has been reported to be active in vitro against Covid-19.
  • Sofosbuvir: Inhibits RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Approved for treatment of hepatitis C, but also with in vitro activity against Covid-19.
  • Tocilizumab: Anti-interleukin-6 monoclonal antibody used in rheumatoid and giant cell arthritis. Theoretically, may mitigate cytokine storm observed in some patients during the later stages of Covid-19 disease.

Of course, there are many more drugs some of which would not be expected to be effective against Covid-19, based on what we so far know this virus. These include darunavir/cobicistat, oseltamivir, immunoglobulins, arbidol (an antiviral used in Russia and China vs influenza), angiotensin receptor blockers, stem cell therapy, convalescent plasma, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Remember corticosteroids are currently not recommended in the absence of other indications for their use (see related PEARL).

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References

  1. US National Library of Medicine. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?cond=2019nCoV&term=&cntry=&state=&city=&dist
  2. Li Guangdi, De Clercq E. Therapeutic options for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 2020; Feb 19, 2010. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41573-020-00016-0
  3. Harrison C. Coronavirus puts drug repurposing on the fast track. Nature Biotechnology 020, Feb 27. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41587-020-00003-1
  4. Velavan TP, Meyer CG. The COVID-19 epidemic. Tropical Medicine and International Health 2020;25:278-280. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/tmi.13383
  5. Elfiky AA. Anti-HCV, nucleotide inhibitors, repurposing against COVID-19. Life Sciences 2020;248. 11747. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024320520302253
  6. Wang Y, Wang Y, Chen Y, et al. Unique epidemiological and clinical features of the emerging 2019 novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) implicate special control measures. J Med Virol 2020;March 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32134116
  7. Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2029 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 2020;395:497-506. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31986264
  8. Paules CI, Marston HD, Fauci AS. Coronavirus infections—More than just the common cold. JAMA 2020;323:707-78. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2759815
  9. Touret F, de Lamballerie X. Of chloroquine and COVID-19. Antiviral Research 2020;177. 104762. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166354220301145
  10. Gurwitz D. Angiotensin receptor blockers as tentavie SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32129518/
  11. Wang M, Cao R, Zhang L, et al. Remdesivir and chlorquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro. Cell Research 2020;30:269-71. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41422-020-0282-0
  12. Roques P, Thiberville SD, Dupuis-Maguirara L, et al. Paradoxical effect of chloroquine treatment in enhancing Chikungunya virus infection. Viruses 2018;10, 268. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29772762
  13. Young BE, Ong SWX, Kalimuddin S, et al. Epidemiologic features and clinical course of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore. JAMA 2020;March 3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762688
  14. Holshue ML, DeBolt C, Lindquist S, et al. First case of 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States. N Engl J Med 2020; March 5. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191
  15. Yao X, Ye F, Zhang M, et al. In vitro antiviral activity and projection of optimized dosing design of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Clin Infect Dis 2020. March 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=32150618
  16. Cao B, Wang Y, Wen D, et al. A trial of lopinavir-ritonavir in adults hospitalized with severe Covid-19. N Engl M Med 2020, March18. DOI:10.1056/NEJMoa2001282. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001282

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

What existing drugs are currently being evaluated or repurposed for treatment of Coronavirus (Covid-19) infection?

Should I consider acute acalculous cholecystitis in my elderly ambulatory patient admitted with right upper quadrant pain?

Short answer: Yes! Although we usually associate acute acalculous cholecystitis (AAC) with critically ill patients (eg, with sepsis, trauma, shock, major burns) in ICUs, AAC is not as rare as we might think in ambulatory patients. In fact, a 7 year study of AAC involving multiple centers reported that AAC among outpatients was increasing in prevalence and accounted for 77% of all cases (1)!

 
Although the pathophysiology of ACC is not fully understood, bile stasis and ischemia of the gallbladder either due to microvascular or macrovascular pathology have been implicated as potential causes (2). One study found that 72% of outpatients who developed ACC had atherosclerotic disease associated with hypertension, coronary, peripheral or cerebral vascular disease, diabetes or congestive heart failure (1). Interestingly, in contrast to calculous cholecystitis, “multiple arterial occlusions” have been observed on pathological examination of the gallbladder in at least some patients with ACC and accordingly a name change to “acute ischemic cholecystitis” has been proposed (3).

 
AAC can also complicate acute mesenteric ischemia and may herald critical ischemia and mesenteric infarction (3). The fact that cystic artery is a terminal branch artery probably doesn’t help and leaves the gallbladder more vulnerable to ischemia when arterial blood flow is compromised irrespective of the cause (4).

 
Of course, besides vascular ischemia there are numerous other causes of ACC, including infectious (eg, viral hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, Salmonella, brucellosis, malaria, Rickettsia and enteroviruses), as well as many non-infectious causes such as vasculitides and, more recently, check-point inhibitor toxicity (1,5-8).

 
Bonus Pearl: Did you know that in contrast to cholecystitis associated with gallstones (where females and 4th and 5th decade age groups predominate), ACC in ambulatory patients is generally more common among males and older age groups (mean age 65 y) (1)?

 

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References
1. Savoca PE, Longo WE, Zucker KA, et al. The increasing prevalence of acalculous cholecystitis in outpatients: Result of a 7-year study. Ann Surg 1990;211: 433-37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1358029/pdf/annsurg00170-0061.pdf
2. Huffman JL, Schenker S. Acute acalculous cholecystitis: A review. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2010;8:15-22. https://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(09)00880-5/pdf
3. Hakala T, Nuutinene PJO, Ruokonen ET, et al. Microangiopathy in acute acalculous cholecystitis Br J Surg 1997;84:1249-52. https://bjssjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-2168.1997.02775.x?sid=nlm%3Apubmed
4. Melo R, Pedro LM, Silvestre L, et al. Acute acalculous cholecystitis as a rare manifestation of chronic mesenteric ischemia. A case report. Int J Surg Case Rep 2016;25:207-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941110/
5. Aguilera-Alonso D, Median EVL, Del Rosal T, et al. Acalculous cholecystitis in a pediatric patient with Plasmodium falciparum infection: A case report and literature review. Ped Infect Dis J 2018;37: e43-e45. https://journals.lww.com/pidj/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2018&issue=02000&article=00020&type=Fulltext  
6. Kaya S, Eskazan AE, Ay N, et al. Acute acalculous cholecystitis due to viral hepatitis A. Case Rep Infect Dis 2013;Article ID 407182. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784234/pdf/CRIM.ID2013-407182.pdf
7. Simoes AS, Marinhas A, Coelho P, et al. Acalculous acute cholecystitis during the course of an enteroviral infection. BMJ Case Rep 2013;12. https://casereports.bmj.com/content/12/4/e228306
8. Abu-Sbeih H, Tran CN, Ge PS, et al. Case series of cancer patients who developed cholecystitis related to immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment. J ImmunoTherapy of Cancer 2019;7:118. https://jitc.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40425-019-0604-2

 

 

Should I consider acute acalculous cholecystitis in my elderly ambulatory patient admitted with right upper quadrant pain?

My patient with sepsis and bacteremia has an extremely high serum Creatine kinase (CK) level. Can his infection be causing rhabdomyolysis?

 Absolutely! Although trauma, toxins, exertion, and medications are often listed as common causes of rhabdomyolysis, infectious etiologies should not be overlooked as they may account for 5% to 30% or more of rhabdomyolysis cases (1,2).

Rhabdomyolysis tends to be associated with a variety of infections, often severe, involving the respiratory tract, as well as urinary tract, heart and meninges, and may be caused by a long list of pathogens (1).  Among bacterial causes, Legionella sp. (“classic” pathogen associated with rhabdomyolysis), Streptococcus sp. (including S. pneumoniae), Salmonella sp, Staphylococcus aureus, Francisella tularensis have been cited frequently (3).  Some series have reported a preponderance of aerobic gram-negatives such as Klebsiella sp., Pseudomonas sp. and E. coli  (1,2).   Among viral etiologies, influenza virus, human immunodeficiency virus, and coxsackievirus are commonly cited (2,3).  Fungal and protozoal infections (eg, malaria) may also be associated with rhabdomyolysis (5).

So how might sepsis cause rhabdomyolysis? Several potential mechanisms have been implicated, including tissue hypoxemia due to sepsis, direct muscle invasion by pathogens (eg, S. aureus, streptococci, Salmonella sp.), toxin generation (eg, Legionella), cytokine-mediated muscle cell toxicity (eg, aerobic gram-negatives) as well as muscle ischemia due to shock (1,5).

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that among patients with HIV infection, infections are the most common cause (39%) of rhabdomyolysis (6)? 

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References

1. Kumar AA, Bhaskar E, Shantha GPS, et al. Rhabdomyolysis in community acquired bacterial sepsis—A retrospective cohort study. PLoS ONE 2009;e7182. Doi:10.1371/journa.pone.0007182. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19787056.

2. Blanco JR, Zabaza M, Sacedo J, et al. Rhabdomyolysis of infectious and noninfectious causes. South Med J 2002;95:542-44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12005014

3. Singh U, Scheld WM. Infectious etiologies of rhabdomyolysis:three case reports and review. Clin Infect Dis 1996;22:642-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8729203

4. Shih CC, Hii HP, Tsao CM, et al. Therapeutic effects of procainamide on endotoxin-induced rhabdomyolysis in rats. PLOS ONE 2016. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150319. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26918767

5. Khan FY. Rhabdomyolysis: a review of the literature. NJM 2009;67:272-83. http://www.njmonline.nl/getpdf.php?id=842

6. Koubar SH, Estrella MM, Warrier R, et al. Rhabdomyolysis in an HIV cohort: epidemiology, causes and outcomes. BMC Nephrology 2017;18:242. DOI 10.1186/s12882-017-0656-9. https://bmcnephrol.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12882-017-0656-9

My patient with sepsis and bacteremia has an extremely high serum Creatine kinase (CK) level. Can his infection be causing rhabdomyolysis?