Baricitinib therapy in COVID19: A pilot study on safety and clinical impact

April 23, 2020


The SARS-CoV-2, a new βCoronavirus, uses the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme-2 Receptor to enter airway cells. Viral endocytosis is mediated by several factors, including clathrin, the adaptor protein-2 complex (AP2) and the adaptor-associated kinase-1 (AAK1).2 According to a recent report, COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is characterized by three clinical patterns: no symptoms, mild to moderate disease, severe pneumonia requiring admission to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in up to 31% of the patients. Thus far, there is no specific therapy for COVID-19 infection. No benefit of lopinavir-ritonavir treatment resulted in a recent trial. 

Hydroxychloroquine, currently used in view of its “in vitro” observed effect of reduction of viral replication, seems unsatisfactory. Elevated proinflammatory cytokine/chemokine responses seem associated with respiratory failure. Recently, tocilizumab, an interleukin-6 inhibitor, was reported as effective in patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. 


Baricitinib, another inhibitor of cytokine-release, seems an interesting anti-inflammatory drug. It is a Janus kinase inhibitor (anti-JAK) licensed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with good efficacy and safety records.7 Moreover it seems to have anti-viral effects by its affinity for AP2-associated protein AAK1, reducing SARS-CoV-2 endocytosis.8 On this basis, we assessed the safety of baricitinib therapy combined with lopinavir-ritonavir in moderate COVID-19 pneumonia patients and we evaluated its clinical impact.

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