Virological and genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 from a favipiravir clinical trial cohort

Masahiro Suzuki, Takumi Imai, Aki Sakurai, Satoshi Komoto, Tomihiko Ide, Chang Kweng Lim, Ayumi Shintani, Yohei Doi, Takayuki Murata

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction: Several clinical studies have reported the efficacy of favipiravir in reducing viral load and shortening the duration of symptoms. However, the viability of SARS-CoV-2 in the context of favipiravir therapy and the potential for resistance development is unclear. Methods: We sequenced SARS-CoV-2 in nasopharyngeal specimens collected from patients who participated in a randomized clinical trial of favipiravir at hospitals across Japan between March and May 2020. Paired genomes were sequenced from those who remained RT-PCR-positive 5–8 days into favipiravir therapy. Daily nasopharyngeal specimens from 69 patients who were RT-PCR-positive at randomization were examined for a cytopathic effect (CPE). Results: Some strains early in the trial belonged to clade 19 B, whereas the majority belonged to clade 20 B. The median time from the disease onset to negative CPE was 9 days. CPE was strongly correlated with the time from disease onset, viral load, age, and male sex. Among 23 patients for whom paired genomes were available, all except one had identical genomes. Two mutations were observed in one patient who received favipiravir, neither in the RdRp gene. Conclusions: The SARS-CoV-2 genome distribution in this clinical trial conducted in Japan reflected the early influx of strains from China followed by replacement by strains from Europe. CPE was significantly associated with age, male sex, and viral loads but not with favipiravir therapy. There was no evidence of resistance development during favipiravir therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1350-1356
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Infection and Chemotherapy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 09-2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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