COVID-19 Research Paper Volume 12, Issue 15 pp 15784—15796

Revealing the targets and mechanisms of vitamin A in the treatment of COVID-19

Rong Li1, *, , Ka Wu2, *, , Yu Li1, , Xiao Liang1, , William Ka Fai Tse3, , Lu Yang1, , Keng Po Lai1, ,

  • 1 Guangxi Key Laboratory of Tumor Immunology and Microenvironmental Regulation, Guilin Medical University, Guilin, China
  • 2 Department of Pharmacy, The Second People's Hospital of Nanning City, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China
  • 3 Center for Promotion of International Education and Research, Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan
* Equal contribution

Received: June 3, 2020       Accepted: July 25, 2020       Published: August 15, 2020
How to Cite

Copyright © 2020 Li et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), an epidemic disease characterized by rapid infection and a high death toll. The clinical diagnosis of patients with COVID-19 has risen sharply, especially in Western countries. Globally, an effective treatment for COVID-19 is still limited. Vitamin A (VA) exhibits pharmacological activity in the management of pneumonia. Thus, we reason that VA may potentially serve as an anti-SARS-CoV-2 regimen. In this study, bioinformatics analysis and computation assays using a network pharmacology method were conducted to explore and uncover the therapeutic targets and mechanisms of VA for treating COVID-19. We identified candidate targets, pharmacological functions, and therapeutic pathways of VA against SARS-CoV-2. Bioinformatics findings indicate that the mechanisms of action of VA against SARS-CoV-2 include enrichment of immunoreaction, inhibition of inflammatory reaction, and biological processes related to reactive oxygen species. Furthermore, seven core targets of VA against COVID-19, including MAPK1, IL10, EGFR, ICAM1, MAPK14, CAT, and PRKCB were identified. With this bioinformatics-based report, we reveal, for the first time, the anti-SARS-CoV-2 functions and mechanisms of VA and suggest that VA may act as a potent treatment option for COVID-19, a deadly global epidemic.


CAT: Catalase; EGFR: Epidermal growth factor receptor; ICAM1: Intercellular Adhesion Molecule 1; IL10: Interleukin 10; KEGG: Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes; MAPK1: Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1; MAPK14: Mitogen-activated protein kinase 14; OMIM: Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man; PRKCB: Protein kinase C beta type; TCMSP: The traditional Chinese medicine systems pharmacology database and analysis platform.