Azelastine is available as an anti-allergy nasal spray and is currently being tested in a Phase 2 efficacy trial for the treatment of early-stage COVID-19 disease.
While unprecedented global efforts have brought a range of highly effective vaccines against COVID-19 to the market, emerging variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus may result in a worrying escape from immune protection offered by these vaccines. The B.1.1.7 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (commonly known as UK variant) has so far been shown to be more contagious and to have the potential to cause more severe disease than the original SARS-CoV-2, while the B.1.351 variant (also known as South African variant) has been reported to evade the antibody response generated by the currently available vaccines. The variants that have emerged in Brazil (P.1) and India (B.1.617, B.1.618) share several of the mutations present in the UK and South African variants, and especially concerning is the E484K mutation that is a signature of immune escape of the viruses which leads to inefficacy of vaccines.
CEBINA, working with world-leading structural biologist Professor Robert Konrat, has previously identified the generic anti-histamine drug azelastine as a potential anti-COVID-19 approach, having demonstrated that azelastine has potent inhibitory activity against SARS-CoV-2 in in vitro infection models. New data generated in collaboration with the Medical University of Innsbruck, shows that azelastine is effective in reducing viral replication of both the B.1.1.7 variant and B.1.351 variant with comparable potency as observed before with the original (Wuhan) SARS-CoV-2 virus.