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Honeysuckle: Potential Therapeutic Strategy for COVID-19 Treatment

Researchers from Nanjing University and two other groups from Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Second Hospital of Nanjing discover miRNA in honeysuckle decoction (HD) can directly target SARS-CoV-2 genes, inhibiting viral replication.

Study published in Cell Discovery led by Zhang Chen-Yu have found that the microRNA, MIR2911 found in honeysuckle decoction (HD) is able to suppress SARS-CoV-2 infection by preventing replication of viral genes. This study was built upon previous research by the same group that showed the use of MIR2911 in directly targeting influenza A viruses (IAV) including H1N1, H5N1 and H7N9. The studies showed that mice fed with honeysuckle concentrate prevented IAV infection and reduced H5N1-induced death. Researchers also found that absorbed exogenous miRNAs (including MIR2911 in HD) can be packaged into exosomes, released to circulation, and then delivered into recipient cells as functional secreted miRNAs.

It was discovered through a luciferase assay from this study that the SARS-CoV-2 genome has up to 28 binding sites of MIR2911. Within the cell, it is packaged in an exosome and was found to prevent 93 percent of virus replication.

In addition, a clinical study was conducted to confirm the anti-viral effect of MIR2911 from HD. Those COVID-19 patients who had already received routine anti-viral therapy were divided into two groups. One was given MIR2911 in HD and the other received a normal mixture of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Comparatively, patients who received treatment with MIR2911 in HD showed shorter time take to be tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

The data from the study was able to confirm the extra-high antiviral activity of MIR2911. MIR2911 in exosomes significantly inhibits virus replication but also provides a novel and the most similar condition in vivo to assess the efficacy of potential drugs in vitro.

“We wished we could provide really useful information to help stop the pandemic in the darkest hour,” Zhang Chen-Yu shared.

“The focus of this study is to demonstrate that absorbed plant MIR2911 in honeysuckle decoction inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication sufficiently. On the other hand, in the study, we have shown that synthetic MIR2911, cellular-exosomal MIR2911 and serum-exosomal MIR2911 directly inhibited SARS-CoV-2 S-protein expression and SARS-CoV-2 replication.” Zhang added.

Zhang Chen-Yu elaborated on the potential of honeysuckle decoction as a treatment for COVID-19, saying that, “More importantly, decreased HD-MIR2911 absorption resulted in non-inhibitory effect on replication, indicating that MIR2911in HD is necessary to suppress SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, we propose medical doctors and scientists from all over the world to carry out HD-MIR2911 clinical trials in order to help treating SARS-CoV-2 infection.” [APBN]