Existing antihistamine drugs show effectiveness against COVID-19 virus in cell testing | UF Health, University of Florida Health

Three common antihistamine medications have been found in preliminary tests to inhibit infection of cells by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, University of Florida Health researchers have found.

Three common antihistamine medications have been found in preliminary tests to inhibit infection of cells by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, University of Florida Health researchers have found.

Two individuals wearing while coats and masks stand in a science lab
Leah Reznikov, Ph.D., and David Ostrov, Ph.D., are shown in Reznikov’s lab. (UF Health/Jesse Jones)

Their findings, based on laboratory tests of cells and a detailed analysis of nearly a quarter-million California patients’ medical records, are published today in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. The data may support the launch of a randomized, controlled clinical trial to determine whether the specific antihistamines can treat or even prevent COVID-19 in humans, the researchers said.

Earlier this year, Leah Reznikov, Ph.D., an assistant professor of physiological sciences in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and the study’s principal investigator on the study, began collaborating with David A. Ostrov, Ph.D., an immunologist and associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine. They and other colleagues set out to identify approved drugs that can interfere with the way the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to cells. Blocking that connection essentially locks a cellular doorway that inhibits the virus’s transmission to the respiratory system.

“We discovered epidemiological data showing that the usage of specific drugs was associated with a reduced likelihood of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. We then found that these specific drugs exhibited direct antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 in the lab,” Ostrov said.

While there is an association between the medications and infection rates, the researchers stressed there is much more to be learned and no cause and effect has been formally established.

“The fact that these drugs actually inhibit the virus in the lab does not necessarily mean that they will inhibit it actively in people — but they might,” Ostrov said.

 

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