Clinical evidences on the antiviral properties of macrolide antibiotics in the COVID-19 era and beyond

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Macrolides are a large group of antibiotics characterised by the presence of a macro-lactone ring of variable size. The prototype of macrolide antibiotics, erythromycin was first produced by Streptomyces and associated species more than half a century ago; other related drugs were developed. These drugs have been shown to have several pharmacological properties: in addition to their antibiotic activity, they possess some anti-inflammatory properties and have been also considered against non-bacterial infections. In this review, we analysed the available clinical evidences regarding the potential anti-viral activity of macrolides, by focusing on erythromycin, clarithromycin and azithromycin. Overall, there is no significant evidences so far that macrolides might have a direct benefit on most of viral infections considered in this review (RSV, Influenza, coronaviruses, Ebola and Zika viruses). However, their clinical benefit cannot be ruled out without further and focused clinical studies. Macrolides may improve the clinical course of viral respiratory infections somehow, at least through indirect mechanisms relying on some and variable anti-inflammatory and/or immunomodulatory effects, in addition to their well-known antibacterial activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2040206620961712
JournalAntiviral Chemistry and Chemotherapy
Publication statusPublished - Sep 26 2020


  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents/pharmacokinetics
  • Antiviral Agents/pharmacokinetics
  • Betacoronavirus/drug effects
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections/drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Macrolides/pharmacokinetics
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral/drug therapy
  • SARS-CoV-2


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