Identification of a coumarin-based antihistamine-like small molecule as an anti-filoviral entry inhibitor

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Filoviruses, consisting of Ebola virus, Marburg virus and Cuevavirus, cause severe hemorrhagic fevers in humans with high mortality rates up to 90%. Currently, there is no approved vaccine or therapy available for the prevention and treatment of filovirus infection in humans. The recent 2013–2015 West African Ebola epidemic underscores the urgency to develop antiviral therapeutics against these infectious diseases. Our previous study showed that GPCR antagonists, particularly histamine receptor antagonists (antihistamines) inhibit Ebola and Marburg virus entry. In this study, we screened a library of 1220 small molecules with predicted antihistamine activity, identified multiple compounds with potent inhibitory activity against entry of both Ebola and Marburg viruses in human cancer cell lines, and confirmed their anti-Ebola activity in human primary cells. These small molecules target a late-stage of Ebola virus entry. Further structure-activity relationship studies around one compound (cp19) reveal the importance of the coumarin fused ring structure, especially the hydrophobic substituents at positions 3 and/or 4, for its antiviral activity, and this identified scaffold represents a favorable starting point for the rapid development of anti-filovirus therapeutic agents.

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