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The serotonin reuptake inhibitor Fluoxetine inhibits SARS-CoV-2 in human lung tissue

To circumvent time-consuming clinical trials, testing whether existing drugs are effective inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 , has led to the discovery of Remdesivir.

The authors decided to follow this path and screened approved medications “off-label” against SARS-CoV-2. Fluoxetine inhibited SARS-CoV-2  at a concentration of 0.8 µg/ml significantly in these screenings, and the EC50 was determined with 387 ng/ml. Furthermore, Fluoxetine reduced viral infectivity in precision-cut human lung slices showing its activity in relevant human tissue targeted in severe infections. Fluoxetine treatment resulted in a decrease in viral protein expression. Fluoxetine is a racemate consisting of both stereoisomers, while the S-form is the dominant serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The authors found that both isomers show similar activity on the virus, indicating that the R-form might specifically be used for SARS-CoV-2  treatment. Fluoxetine inhibited neither Rabies virus, human respiratory syncytial virus replication nor the Human Herpesvirus 8 or Herpes simplex virus type 1 gene expression, indicating that it acts virus-specific.

Zimniak, M., et al. The serotonin reuptake inhibitor Fluoxetine inhibits SARS-CoV-2  in human lung tissue. Sci Rep 11, 5890 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-85049-0