SARS-CoV-2 interacts with cellular cholesterol during many stages of its replication cycle. Pantethine was reported to reduce total cholesterol levels and fatty acid synthesis and potentially alter different processes that might be involved in the SARS-CoV-2 replication cycle. Here, we explored the potential antiviral effects of pantethine in two in vitro experimental models of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Pantethine reduced the infection of cells by SARS-CoV-2 in both preinfection and postinfection treatment regimens. Accordingly, cellular expression of the viral spike and nucleocapsid proteins was substantially reduced, and we observed a significant reduction in viral copy numbers in the supernatant of cells treated with pantethine. In addition, pantethine inhibited the infection-induced increase in TMPRSS2 and HECT E3 ligase expression in infected cells as well as the increase in antiviral interferon-beta response and inflammatory gene expression in Calu-3a cells. Our results demonstrate that pantethine, which is well tolerated in humans, was very effective in controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection and might represent a new therapeutic drug that can be repurposed for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and long COVID syndrome.