27-hydroxycholesterol (27OHC) could inhibit the yield of human rhinovirus and prevent virus-induced cilia damage in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), according to a new study published in Antiviral Research.

“The promising antiviral activity of 27OHC and its competitive advantages over direct-acting antivirals, make this molecule a suitable candidate for further studies to explore its clinical potential,” the authors of the study wrote.

Patients with CF are particularly vulnerable to bacterial and viral lung infections due to thickened mucus resulting from impaired chloride movement to the cell surface, which is caused by dysfunction of the transmembrane conductance regulator protein.

It is difficult to develop antiviral drugs due to the genetic plasticity of viruses. 

Read more about the etiology of CF

In the present study, a team of researchers led by David Lembo, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology at the School of Medicine S. Luigi Gonzaga, University of Turin in Italy, assessed the ability of 25OHC and 27OHC to select resistant viral strains. The team also explored the potential of 27OHC to develop antiviral drugs.

The results of the study showed that neither 25OHC nor 27OHC selected oxysterol-resistant variants of the human rhinovirus. 25OHC and 27OHC are both physiologic oxysterols and host-targeting antiviral molecules.

They also showed that 27OHC was able to inhibit the yield of human rhinovirus in 3-dimensional in vitro fully reconstituted human nasal and bronchial epithelia obtained from patients with CF. In addition, it was able to prevent virus-induced cilia damage.

The researchers concluded that 27OHC could be developed as a potential treatment of human rhinovirus infections in patients affected by chronic respiratory diseases such as CF due to its promising antiviral activity and competitive advantages over direct-acting standard antiviral drugs.


Civra A, Costantino M, Cavalli R, et al. 27-Hydroxycholesterol inhibits rhinovirus replication in vitro and on human nasal and bronchial histocultures without selecting viral resistant variants. Antiviral Res. Published online June 19, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.antiviral.2022.105368