The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has highlighted the need for broad-spectrum antivirals against coronaviruses (CoVs)
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has highlighted the need for broad-spectrum antivirals against coronaviruses (CoVs). Here, pheophorbide a (Pba) was identified as a highly active antiviral molecule against HCoV-229E after bioguided fractionation of plant extracts. The antiviral activity of Pba was subsequently shown for SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV, and its mechanism of action was further assessed, showing that Pba is an inhibitor of coronavirus entry by directly targeting the viral particle. Interestingly, the antiviral activity of Pba depends on light exposure, and Pba was shown to inhibit virus-cell fusion by stiffening the viral membrane as demonstrated by cryo-electron microscopy. Moreover, Pba was shown to be broadly active against several other enveloped viruses, and reduced SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV replication in primary human bronchial epithelial cells. Pba is the first described natural antiviral against SARS-CoV-2 with direct photosensitive virucidal activity that holds potential for COVID-19 therapy or disinfection of SARS-CoV-2 contaminated surfaces.