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Project A4: Janina Auth, associated doctoral researcher (MD)

Combating viral pandemics - Natural antioxidants as therapeutic agents against HIV and SARS-CoV-2

Emerging viruses such as the Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or the most recent severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which derived from the animal kingdom, cause global pandemics and pose a serious health problem today. Existing HIV-pharmaceuticals necessitate a life-long treatment and show increasing treatment failure rates due to resistances. No vaccination is available for HIV and in the case of SARS-CoV-2 there is frequently still a lack of a specific antiviral therapy. This unavailability of adequate treatment necessitates the development of new therapeutics that are safe, relatively cheap and easily distributable for a wide range of patients. Numerous studies have highlighted natural antioxidants as potential therapeutic agents for many diseases, such as metabolic disorders or cancer. Most importantly, they have proved promising effects against a variety of viruses, including HIV, while a potential antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 has not been reported yet. However, due to their poor bioavailability their use as therapeutic agents is currently limited. Here we use a newly developed liposomal formulation to dissolve these natural antioxidants, increasing their bioavailability and their concentration in vivo. The aim of this study is to analyse the antiviral mechanisms of these dissolved substances on HIV as well as SARS-CoV-2 infected cell cultures by performing HIV reverse transcriptase assays and western blot studies. Demonstrating an antiviral effect of these antioxidants dissolved in the new solubilizer would make an important contribution to combating the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and pave the way for their potential use as therapeutic agents in COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, it would enable future in-vivo research to decipher their potential use as additive pharmaceuticals in HIV therapy.