S-217622, a SARS-CoV-2 main protease inhibitor, decreases viral load and ameliorates COVID-19 severity in hamsters.

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Sasaki M, Tabata K, Kishimoto M, Itakura Y, Kobayashi H, Ariizumi T, Uemura K, Toba S, Kusakabe S, Maruyama Y, Iida S, Nakajima N, Suzuki T, Yoshida S, Nobori H, Sanaki T, Kato T, Shishido T, Hall WW, Orba Y, Sato A, Sawa H

In parallel with vaccination, oral antiviral agents are highly anticipated to act as countermeasures for the treatment of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Oral antiviral medication demands not only high antiviral activity but also target specificity, favorable oral bioavailability, and high metabolic stability. Although a large number of compounds have been identified as potential inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro, few have proven to be effective in vivo. Here, we show that oral administration of S-217622 (ensitrelvir), an inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro; also known as 3C-like protease), decreases viral load and ameliorates disease severity in SARS-CoV-2-infected hamsters. S-217622 inhibited viral proliferation at low nanomolar to submicromolar concentrations in cells. Oral administration of S-217622 demonstrated favorable pharmacokinetic properties and accelerated recovery from acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in hamster recipients. Moreover, S-217622 exerted antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, including the highly pathogenic Delta variant and the recently emerged Omicron BA.5 and BA.2.75 variants. Overall, our study provides evidence that S-217622, an antiviral agent that is under evaluation in a phase 3 clinical trial (clinical trial registration no. jRCT2031210350), has remarkable antiviral potency and efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 and is a prospective oral therapeutic option for COVID-19.