Background: In December 2019, China announced the first case of an infection caused by an, until then, unknown virus: SARS-CoV-2. Since then, researchers have been looking for viable alternatives for the treatment and/or cure of viral infection. Among the possible complementary solutions are lectins, proteins that are reversibly bound to different carbohydrates. The Spike protein, present on the viral surface, can interact with different cell receptors: ACE2, CD147, and DC-SIGNR. Since lectins have an affinity for different carbohydrates, the binding with the glycosylated cell receptors represents a possibility of preventing the virus from binding to the receptors of host cells.
Objective: In this review, we discuss the main lectins that are possible candidates for use in the treatment of Covid-19, highlighting those that have already demonstrated antiviral activity in vivo and in vitro, including mannose-binding lectin, Griffithsin, BanLec, and others. We also aim to discuss the possible mechanism of action of lectins, which appears to occur through the mediation of viral fusion in host cells, by binding of lectins to glycosylated receptors found in human cells and/or binding of these proteins with the spike glycoprotein, present in virus surface. Moreover, we discuss the use of lectins in clinical practice.
Conclusion: Even with the development of effective vaccines, new cases of viral infection with the same virus, or new outbreaks with different viruses can occur; so, the development of new treatments should not be discarded. Moreover, the discussions made in this work are relevant regarding the anti-viral properties of lectins.