Inhibition of the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in human cells by the FDA-approved drug chlorpromazine
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Urgent action is needed to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by reducing the number of infected people along with the infection contagiousness and severity. Chlorpromazine (CPZ), the prototype of typical antipsychotics from the phenothiazine group, is known to inhibit clathrin-mediated endocytosis and acts as an antiviral, in particular against SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV. In this study, we describe the in vitro testing of CPZ against a SARS-CoV-2 isolate in monkey and human cells. We evidenced an antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 with an IC50 of ∼10μM. Because of its high biodistribution in lung, saliva and brain, such IC50 measured in vitro may translate to CPZ dosage used in clinical routine. This extrapolation is in line with our observations of a higher prevalence of symptomatic and severe forms of COVID-19 infections among health care professionals compared to patients in psychiatric wards. These preclinical findings support the repurposing of CPZ, a largely used drug with mild side effects, in COVID-19 treatment.