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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2020, Vol. 18 ›› Issue (2): 152-158.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2020.02.005

• Methodology • Previous Articles     Next Articles

In silico screening of Chinese herbal medicines with the potential to directly inhibit 2019 novel coronavirus

Deng-hai Zhanga(), Kun-lun Wub, Xue Zhanga, Sheng-qiong Dengc, Bin Penga   

  1. a. Shanghai Health Commission Key Lab of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-Based Management of Inflammation and Chronic Diseases, Sino-French Cooperative Central Lab, Shanghai Pudong Gongli Hospital, Secondary Military Medical University, Shanghai 200135, China
    b. Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai Pudong Gongli Hospital, Secondary Military Medical University, Shanghai 200135, China
    c. Department of Research Affair Management, Shanghai Pudong Gongli Hospital, Secondary Military Medical University, Shanghai 200135, China
  • Received:2020-02-07 Revised:2020-02-10 Accepted:2020-02-13 Online:2020-03-10 Published:2020-02-14
  • Supported by:
    This work is supported by Shanghai Leading Talent Grants in Medicine (No. 2019LG26), Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine Content Construction Innovation Project (No. ZY3-CCCX-3-7001) and Postdoctoral Funding of Shanghai Gongil Hospital (No. GLBH2017002).


In this study we execute a rational screen to identify Chinese medical herbs that are commonly used in treating viral respiratory infections and also contain compounds that might directly inhibit 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), an ongoing novel coronavirus that causes pneumonia.


There were two main steps in the screening process. In the first step we conducted a literature search for natural compounds that had been biologically confirmed as against sever acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus or Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Resulting compounds were cross-checked for listing in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Systems Pharmacology Database. Compounds meeting both requirements were subjected to absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) evaluation to verify that oral administration would be effective. Next, a docking analysis was used to test whether the compound had the potential for direct 2019-nCoV interaction. In the second step we searched Chinese herbal databases to identify treatments containing the selected compounds. Plants containing 2 or more of the compounds identified in our screen were then checked against the catalogue for classic herbal usage. Finally, network pharmacology analysis was used to predict the general in vivo effects of each selected herb.


Of the natural compounds screened, 13 that exist in traditional Chinese medicines were also found to have potential anti-2019-nCoV activity. Further, 125 Chinese herbs were found to contain 2 or more of these 13 compounds. Of these 125 herbs, 26 are classically catalogued as treating viral respiratory infections. Network pharmacology analysis predicted that the general in vivo roles of these 26 treatments were related to regulating viral infection, immune/inflammation reactions and hypoxia response.


Chinese herbal treatments classically used for treating viral respiratory infection might contain direct anti-2019-nCoV compounds.

Key words: 2019-nCoV, Wuhan coronavirus, Drugs, Chinese herbal, pneumonia, natural compounds, molecular docking, network pharmacology

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