Background and Purpose Previously we reported our hypothesis that the high distribution of antiviral drugs in the lung is a key factor that results in reducing viral loads in COVID-19 patients. So far, chloroquine, lopinavir, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, favipiravir, ribavirin, darunavir, remdesivir, and umifenovir have been tested in COVID-19 clinical trials. Here we validate our hypothesis by comparing the pharmacokinetics profiles of these drugs and their capabilities of reducing viral load in clinical trials. Experimental approach The RNA-seq data were obtained from public database and re-analyzed and visualized by Single Cell Portal and Seurat. The tissue/plasma ratio of antiviral drugs were calculated by AUC or Mean values that were compiled from publications. Key Results High expression of both ACE2 and TMPRSS2 makes the lung and intestine vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2. Hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and favipiravir, which were highly distributed to the lung, were reported to reduce viral loads in respiratory tract of COVID-19 patients. Conversely, drugs with poor lung distributions, including lopinavir/ritonavir, umifenovir and remdesivir, were insufficient to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication. Lopinavir/ritonavir might inhibit SARS-CoV-2 in the GI tract according to their distribution profiles. Conclusion and Implications The antiviral drugs should be distributed straight to or accumulate in the lung for reducing viral loads in respiratory tract of COVID-1 9 patients. Additionally, to better evaluate antiviral drugs that target the intestine, the stool samples should also be collected for viral RNA test in the future.
Lopinavir combined with ritonavir were reported to benefit the patients with SARS by reducing the viral loads. However, in the latest clinical trials, no benefit was observed with lopinavir-ritonavir treatment beyond standard care in patients with COVID-19. We comment here that this disappointed result of clinical trial might result from the low volume of the lung distribution of lopinavir. The major reasons were listed below: 1) The binding affinity of ACE2 with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is ~10- to 20-fold higher than the binding affinity of ACE2 with SARS-CoV spike protein, indicating that SARS-CoV-2 can enter AT2 cells in lung much easier than SARS-CoV. Therefore, the viral loads of SARS-CoV-2 might be much higher than viral loads of SARS-CoV in the lung tissue. 2) The concentration of lopinavir in the lung tissue was 1.18 μg equiv/ml in rats. The low volume of the lung distribution of lopinavir might not be enough to inhibit the coronavirus replication due to the high viral loads in the lung tissue. 3) In contrast, the concentration of chloroquine in the lung tissue was much higher (30.76 ± 0.85 μg equiv/ml) in rats, which might lead to its clinical and virologic benefits in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Together, we proposed here that anti-SARS-CoV-2 drug repurposing studies should pay more attentions to the lung tissue distribution of antiviral drugs. The efficacy of antiviral drugs might depend on their lung tissue distributions