bioRxiv posts many COVID19-related papers. A reminder: they have not been formally peer-reviewed and should not guide health-related behavior or be reported in the press as conclusive.
On 11th March 2020, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). To date, there are rapidly spreading new “variants of concern” of SARS-CoV-2, the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), the South African (B.1.351) or Brasilian (P.1) variant. All of them contain multiple mutations in the ACE2 receptor recognition site of the spike protein, compared to the original Wuhan sequence, which is of great concern, because of their potential for immune escape.
Here we report on the efficacy of common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) to block protein-protein interaction of spike S1 to the human ACE2 cell surface receptor. This could be shown for the original spike D614, but also for its mutant forms (D614G, N501Y, and mix of K417N, E484K, N501Y) in human HEK293-hACE2 kidney and A549-hACE2-TMPRSS2 lung cells. High molecular weight compounds in the water-based extract account for this effect. Infection of the lung cells using SARS-CoV-2 spike pseudotyped lentivirus particles was efficiently prevented by the extract and so was virus-triggered pro-inflammatory interleukin 6 secretion. Modern herbal monographs consider the usage of this medicinal plant as safe. Thus, the in vitro results reported here should encourage further research on the clinical relevance and applicability of the extract as prevention strategy for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Significance statement SARS-CoV-2 is steadily mutating during continuous transmission among humans. This might eventually lead the virus into evading existing therapeutic and prophylactic approaches aimed at the viral spike. We found effective inhibition of protein-protein interaction between the human virus cell entry receptor ACE2 and SARS-CoV-2 spike, including five relevant mutations, by water-based common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) extracts. This was shown in vitro using human kidney (HEK293) and lung (A549) cells, overexpressing the ACE2 and ACE2/TMPRSS2 protein, respectively. Infection of the lung cells using SARS-CoV-2 pseudotyped lentivirus was efficiently prevented by the extract.
The results deserve more in-depth analysis of dandelions’ effectiveness in SARS-CoV-2 prevention and now require confirmatory clinical evidence.