In a new study, researchers found that a simple drug that has been on the market for decades could be used to treat COVID-19.
The drug is a cholesterol-lowering one called Fenofibrate (Tricor).
The research was led by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).
Over the last three months, the team had focused on the ways in which the SARS-CoV-2 changes patients’ lungs in order to reproduce itself.
They found this virus prevents the routine burning of carbohydrates. As a result, large amounts of fat accumulate inside lung cells, a condition the virus needs in order to reproduce.
This new understanding of SARS CoV-2 may help explain why patients with high blood sugar and cholesterol levels are often at a particularly high risk to develop COVID-19.
Viruses are parasites that lack the ability to replicate on their own, so they take control of our cells to help accomplish that task.
The team says by understanding how the SARS-CoV-2 controls our metabolism, they can wrestle back control from the virus and deprive it of the very resources it needs to survive.
With this information in hand, the team began to screen FDA-approved medications that interfere with the virus’ ability to reproduce.
In lab studies, the cholesterol-lowering drug Fenofibrate (Tricor) showed extremely promising results.
By allowing lung cells to burn more fat, fenofibrate breaks the virus’ grip on these cells and prevents SARS CoV-2’s ability to reproduce. In fact, within only five days of treatment, the virus almost completely disappeared.
While there are many international efforts currently underway to develop a coronavirus vaccine, studies suggest that vaccines may only protect patients for a few months.
Therefore, blocking the virus’ ability to function, rather than neutralizing its ability to strike in the first place, may be the key to turning the tables on COVID-19.
If these findings are borne out by clinical studies, this treatment could potentially downgrade COVID-19’s severity into nothing worse than a common cold.
One author of the study is Professor Yaakov Nahmias.
The study is published in Cell Press Sneak Peak.
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