N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) in Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Arno R Bourgonje, Annette K Offringa, Larissa E van Eijk, Amaal E Abdulle, Jan-Luuk Hillebrands, Peter H J van der Voort, Harry van Goor*, Ed J van Hezik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Significance: Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is one of the three main gasotransmitters which is endogenously produced in humans and is protective against oxidative stress. Recent findings from studies focusing on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), shifted our attention to a potential modulatory role of H2S in this viral respiratory disease. Recent Advances: H2S levels at hospital admission may be of importance since this gasotransmitter has been shown to be protective against lung damage through its antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Furthermore, many COVID-19 cases have been described demonstrating remarkable clinical improvement upon administration of high doses of N-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC is a renowned pharmacological antioxidant substance acting as a source of cysteine, thereby promoting endogenous glutathione (GSH) biosynthesis as well as generation of sulfane sulfur species when desulfurated to H2S. Critical Issues: Combining H2S physiology and currently available knowledge of COVID-19, H2S is hypothesized to target three main vulnerabilities of SARS-CoV-2: 1) cell entry through interfering with functional host receptors, 2) viral replication through acting on RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase (RdRp), and 3) the escalation of inflammation to a potentially lethal hyperinflammatory cytokine storm (TLR4 pathway and NLRP3 inflammasome). Future Directions: Dissecting the breakdown of NAC reveals the possibility of increasing endogenous H2S levels, which may provide a convenient rationale for the application of H2S-targeted therapeutics. Further randomized controlled trials (RCT) are warranted to investigate its definitive role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1207-1225
Number of pages19
JournalAntioxidants & Redox Signaling
Issue number14
Early online date25-Mar-2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2021

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