According to a study by French researchers, certain psychotropic drugs commonly used against mental disorders may have a preventive effect against SARS-CoV-2.
Do Psychotropic Drugs and Antihistamines Protect Against SARS-CoV-2 Infection? This is what a team of researchers and clinicians from Inserm, AP-HP, the universities of Lille, Paris, the FondaMental Foundation put forward. In a study published in the journal Drug Discovery Today, they explain that certain drugs commonly prescribed in psychiatry, such as psychoactive agents (antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants), psychostimulants and antihistamines have a protective effect against infection with the new coronavirus.
How did the researchers make this discovery? They explain that at the beginning of the epidemic, they “intuitively thought that patients suffering from mental disorders were at increased risk of being infected: non-compliance with protective measures, delay in access to health services due social discrimination, confinement in psychiatric units favoring the spread of infections, and a high prevalence of high-risk comorbidities (diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, obesity) ”. However, although specialized Covid-19 units are dedicated to psychiatric patients, they were “almost empty during the confinement period”. This suggests, according to the research team, “that these patients, under medical supervision, may be at reduced risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2. This raised an interesting question: does the pharmacological treatment of these patients play a role in the observed protective effect? ”
To find out, the researchers first identified the 18 drugs most used in patients with mental disorders who were hospitalized or followed in the psychiatric department of Henri-Mondor Hospital, in Créteil, from 2019 to April 2020. These are antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, mood regulators, antihistamines, and nicotine, prescribed for smoking cessation.
After analyzing the drug molecules, the researchers found that these psychotropic drugs have antiviral activity in vitro. The reason according to them: their composition, which includes cationic amphiphilic compounds (CAD) which are known to disrupt intracellular traffic and / or PLD, phospholipidosis. The researchers recall that “very controversial antimalarial chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine” are also CAD and PLD compounds.
“It has been found in the scientific literature that either they actually have antiviral activity, or they prevent the virus from entering, and disrupt the trafficking of the virus in cells. All these actions could be involved in a protective effect against the entry of the virus into cells”, explains France Inter Professor Marion Leboyer, psychiatrist at Henri-Mondor Hospital in Créteil and director of the FondaMental foundation.
“We suggest that some of the drugs commonly prescribed to psychiatric patients could protect them from SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the researchers conclude. Other tests are currently underway to identify and test the molecules in vitro and in a clinical environment before the launch of potential clinical trials on humans.