Alhakamy NA, Ahmed OAA, Ibrahim TS, Aldawsari HM, Eljaaly K, Fahmy UA, Alaofi AL, Caraci F*,**, Caruso G*,** (2021) Pharmaceuticals 14:178. [*co-last authors; **corresponding authors]

Pubmed: doi: 10.3390/ph14030178.


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in China has become an urgent health and economic challenge. There is a current race for developing strategies to treat and/or prevent COVID-19 worldwide. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The aim of the present work was to evaluate the efficacy of the combined complex (nano-conjugates) of two FDA-approved drugs, sitagliptin (SIT) and glatiramer acetate (GA), against a human isolate of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. SIT-GA nano-conjugates were prepared according to a full three-factor bilevel (2^3) factorial design. The SIT concentration (mM, X1), GA concentration (mM, X2), and pH (X3) were selected as the factors. The particle size (nm, Y1) and zeta potential (mV, Y2) were assessed as responses. Characterization of the optimized formula for the Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was carried out. In addition, the half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) in Vero-E6 epithelial cells previously infected with the virus was investigated. The results revealed that the optimized formula of the prepared complex was a 1:1 SIT:GA molar ratio at a pH of 10, which met the required criteria with a desirability value of 0.878 and had a particle size and zeta potential at values of 77.42 nm and 27.67 V, respectively. The SIT-GA nano-complex showed antiviral potential against an isolate of SARS-CoV-2 with IC50 values of 16.14, 14.09, and 8.52 µM for SIT, GA, and SIT-GA nano-conjugates, respectively. Molecular docking has shown that the formula’s components have a high binding affinity to the COVID 3CL protease, essential for coronavirus replication, paralleled by 3CL protease inhibition (IC50 = 2.87 µM). An optimized formulation of SIT-GA could guarantee both enhanced deliveries to target cells and improved cellular uptake. Further clinical studies are being carried out to validate the clinical efficacy of the optimized formulation against SARS-CoV-2.