Lab study reveals that several antidepressant drugs, including fluvoxamine, can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Key Messages

This lab study tested the ability of several antidepressants including fluvoxamine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and demonstrated that fluvoxamine has a direct antiviral activity.

Cells exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and treated with fluvoxamine for 24 hours had significantly lower levels of SARS-CoV-2 than untreated cells exposed to the virus.

Furthermore, fluvoxamine had no toxic effects on the cells tested.


Publication Date: March 23, 2021
Peer Reviewed: No
Publication Type: Original | Preclinical

Antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs reduce viral infection by SARS-CoV-2 and fluoxetine show antiviral activity against the novel variants in vitro

Senem Merve Fred, Suvi Kuivanen, Hasan Ugurlu, Plinio Cabrera Casarotto, Lev Levanov, Kalle Saksela, Olli Vapalahti, Eero Castrén


Background and Purpose
Repurposing of currently available drugs is a valuable strategy to tackle the consequences of COVID-19. Recently, several studies have investigated the effect of psychoactive drugs on SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture models as well as in clinical practice. Our aim was to expand these studies and test some of these compounds against newly emerged variants.

Experimental Approach
Several antidepressant drugs and antipsychotic drugs with different primary mechanisms of action were tested in ACE2/TMPRSS2-expressing human embryonic kidney cells against the infection by SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-dependent pseudoviruses. Some of these compounds were also tested in human lung epithelial cell line, Calu-1, against the first wave (B.1) lineage of SARS-CoV-2 and the variants of concern, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351.

Key Results
Several clinically used antidepressants, including fluoxetine, citalopram, reboxetine, imipramine, as well as antipsychotic compounds chlorpromazine, flupenthixol, and pimozide inhibited the infection by pseudotyped viruses with minimal effects on cell viability. The antiviral action of several of these drugs was verified in Calu-1 cells against the (B.1) lineage of SARS-CoV-2. By contrast, the anticonvulsant carbamazepine, and novel antidepressants ketamine and its derivatives as well as MAO and phosphodiesterase inhibitors phenelzine and rolipram, respectively, showed no activity in the pseudovirus model. Furthermore, fluoxetine remained effective against pseudo viruses with N501Y, K417N, and E484K spike mutations, and the VoC-1 (B.1.1.7) and VoC-2 (B.1.351) variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Conclusion and Implications
Our study confirms previous data and extends information on the repurposing of these drugs to counteract SARS-CoV-2 infection including different variants of concern.