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Research Article

Potential Targets and Mechanisms of Bitter Almond-Licorice for COVID-19 Treatment Based on Network Pharmacology and Molecular Docking

[ Vol. 29 , Issue. 33 ]


Qiwei Hong, Xinyue Shang, Yanan Wu, Zhenlin Nie* and Bangshun He*   Pages 2655 - 2667 ( 13 )


Background: The outbreak of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has resulted in millions of infections and raised global attention. Bitter almonds and licorice are both Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM), often used in combination to treat lung diseases. Several prescriptions in the guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (trial version ninth) contained bitter almond-licorice, which was effective in the treatment of COVID-19. However, the active ingredients, drug targets and therapeutic mechanisms of bitter almonds-licorice for the treatment of COVID-19 remain to be elucidated.

Methods: The active ingredients and targets were derived from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Systems Pharmacology (TCMSP). Meanwhile, targets associated with COVID-19 were obtained from the GeneCards database, PharmGkb database and DrugBank database. Then, the potential targets of bitter almond-licorice against COVID-19 were screened out. Protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks and core targets were analyzed through the String database and Cytoscape software. In addition, gene ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway enrichment analyses were performed based on potential targets using R statistical software. Finally, molecular docking was used to validate the binding of the active ingredients to the core targets.

Results: The results of the TCMSP database showed that the bitter almond-licorice had 89 active components against COVID-19, involving 102 targets. PPI network and core target analysis indicated that IL-6, TNF, MAPK1, and IL1B were the key targets against COVID-19. In addition, GO and KEGG enrichment analysis showed that the bitter almond-licorice were involved in various biological processes through inflammation-related pathways such as TNF signaling pathway and IL-17 signaling pathway. Finally, molecular docking approaches confirmed the affinity between the active components of the bitter almond-licorice and the therapeutic targets.

Conclusion: The bitter almond-licorice could be used to treat COVID-19 by inhibiting inflammatory responses and regulating cellular stress. This work is based on data mining and molecular docking, and the findings need to be interpreted with caution.


Bitter almond, licorice, COVID-19, network pharmacology, molecular docking, traditional chinese medicine.


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