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Chloroquine does not inhibit infection of human lung cells with SARS-CoV-2

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has been associated with more than 470,000 fatal cases worldwide. In order to develop antiviral interventions quickly, drugs used for treatment of unrelated diseases are currently being repurposed to combat COVID-19. Chloroquine is a anti-malaria drug that is frequently employed for COVID-19 treatment since it inhibits SARS-CoV-2 spread in the kidney-derived cell line Vero1–3. Here, we show that engineered expression of TMPRSS2, a cellular protease that activates SARS-CoV-2 for entry into lung cells4, renders SARS-CoV-2 infection of Vero cells insensitive to chloroquine. Moreover, we report that chloroquine does not block SARS-CoV-2 infection of the TMPRSS2-positive lung cell line Calu-3. These results indicate that chloroquine targets a pathway for viral activation that is not operative in lung cells and is unlikely to protect against SARS-CoV-2 spread in and between patients.

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Correspondence to Markus Hoffmann or Stefan Pöhlmann.

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Hoffmann, M., Mösbauer, K., Hofmann-Winkler, H. et al. Chloroquine does not inhibit infection of human lung cells with SARS-CoV-2. Nature (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2575-3

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