Experimental and clinical evaluation of mefloquine effectiveness against the infection caused by SARS-CoV-2
The efficacy of mefloquine has not been studied in the in vivo experiments and clinical trials involving COVID-19 patients. The study was aimed to assess the effects of mefloquine on the SARS-CoV-2 accumulation in the lungs of infected animals and to study the efficacy and safety of mefloquine compared to hydroxychloroquine in patients with COVID-19. During the experiment, a total of 96 Syrian hamsters were infected with SARS-CoV-2. Accumulation of the virus in lungs was compared in the groups of animals treated with mefloquine and ribavirin and in the control group. During the clinical trial, the mefloquine and hydroxychloroquine safety and efficacy in patients with mild and moderate COVID-19 (172 individuals) was assessed based on the symptom changes over time and the computed tomography results. The experiment showed that the SARS-CoV-2 accumulation in the lungs of Syrian hamsters 6 days after infection and mefloquine treatment was 2.2 ± 0.18 lg PFU/g, which was lower (p < 0.05) than in the control group (3.5 ± 0.21 lg PFU/g) and ribavirin group (5.2 ± 0.05 lg PFU/g). During the clinical trial, it was found that 50.0% of patients in the mefloquine group and 32.4% in the hydroxychloroquine group (р < 0.05) developed a mild disease, and the completely resolved respiratory failure was registered in 76.5% and 44.6%, respectively (р < 0.001). Adverse events were observed in 86.7 % and 77% of patients in the mefloquine and hydroxychloroquine groups, respectively (р > 0.05). Thus, during the experiment, mefloquine contributed to the faster virus titer reduction in the lungs. During the clinical trial, the mefloquine efficacy was non-inferiority or, based on a number of indicators, higher compared to hydroxychloroquine, with comparable safety.