Topical TMPRSS2 inhibition prevents SARS-CoV-2 infection in differentiated human airway cultures
Background There are limited effective prophylactic/early treatments for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Viral entry requires spike protein binding to the ACE2 receptor and cleavage by TMPRSS2, a cell surface serine protease. Targeting of TMPRSS2 by either androgen blockade or direct inhibition is in clinical trials in early SARS-CoV-2 infection. Methods We used differentiated primary human airway epithelial cells at the air-liquid interface to test the impact of targeting TMPRSS2 on the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Results We first modelled the systemic delivery of compounds. Enzalutamide, an oral androgen receptor antagonist, had no impact on SARS-Cov-2 infection. By contrast, camostat mesylate, an orally available serine protease inhibitor, blocked SARS-CoV-2 entry. However, oral camostat is rapidly metabolised in the circulation, with poor airway bioavailability. We therefore modelled local airway administration by applying camostat to the apical surface of differentiated airway cultures. We demonstrated that a brief exposure to topical camostat effectively restricts SARS-CoV-2 infection. Conclusion These experiments demonstrate a potential therapeutic role for topical camostat for pre- or post-exposure prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2, which can now be evaluated in a clinical trial.
National Centre for the Replacement Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC/S001204/1)
MRC (via University of Birmingham) (MR/V028448/1)
Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (ACT) (900241)
National Institute for Health Research (NIHRDH-IS-BRC-1215-20014)