Current antiviral treatment options for SARS-CoV-2 infections are not available globally, cannot be used with many medications, and are limited to virus-specific targets. 1-3 Biophysical modeling of SARS-CoV-2 replication predicted that protein translation is an especially attractive target for antiviral therapy. 4 Literature review identified metformin, widely known as a treatment for diabetes, as a potential suppressor of protein translation via targeting of the host mTor pathway. 5 In vitro, metformin has antiviral activity against RNA viruses including SARS-CoV-2. 6,7 In the COVID-OUT phase 3, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of outpatient treatment of COVID-19, metformin had a 42% reduction in ER visits/hospitalizations/death through 14 days; a 58% reduction in hospitalizations/death through 28 days, and a 42% reduction in Long COVID through 10 months. 8,9 Here we show viral load analysis of specimens collected in the COVID-OUT trial that the mean SARS-CoV-2 viral load was reduced 3.6-fold with metformin relative to placebo (-0.56 log 10 copies/mL; 95%CI, -1.05 to -0.06, p=0.027) while there was no virologic effect for ivermectin or fluvoxamine vs placebo. The metformin effect was consistent across subgroups and with emerging data. 10,11 Our results demonstrate, consistent with model predictions, that a safe, widely available, 12 well-tolerated, and inexpensive oral medication, metformin, can be repurposed to significantly reduce SARS-CoV-2 viral load.
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