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Gold-containing drug auranofin kills 95% of SARS-CoV-2 virus in 48 hours in lab conditions

22 Apr, 2020

A drug called auranofin, approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, effectively inhibits severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in laboratory conditions, as described in a new study by Georgia State University researchers.

Auranofin is a chemical compound that contains gold particles. Therefore it is also known as a gold-salt compound. Such gold-containing drugs have known anti-inflammatory properties, and this specific triethyl phosphine can reduce cytokine production and stimulate cell-mediated immunity.

In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, auranofin was recently approved by the FDA to enter phase II clinical trials for cancer treatment. The drug was also investigated in other diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders and various infections (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, as well as some parasitic infestations). This prompted the researchers to appraise whether it can be used in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The new study describes a process where human cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 were treated with auranofin. Within 24 hours of treatment, viral concentrations in cells dropped by 85 percent, and within 48 hours by 95 percent. At the same time, auranofin was not toxic to the cells used in this research.

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