Common painkillers can boost or suppress COVID-19 depending on timing

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In a new study, researchers found that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce both antibody and inflammatory responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

They found taking NSAIDs during COVID-19 could be harmful or beneficial, depending on the timing of administration.

They also found the potent anti-inflammatory, dexamethasone (not an NSAID), is detrimental to COVID-19 sufferers when taken early in the infection, but beneficial when administered during later stages of COVID-19.

The research was conducted by a team at Yale University School of Medicine.

NSAIDs are the most commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs.

In addition to taking NSAIDs for chronic conditions such as arthritis, people take them for shorter periods of time during infections, and during inflammation as experienced with COVID-19, and for side effects from vaccination, such as soreness, fever, and malaise.

In the study, the team found NSAIDs’ anti-inflammatory activity might be detrimental early in SARS-CoV-2 infection because at this stage, inflammation is usually helpful.

That changes at later stages of COVID-19, particularly if the patient undergoes an intense inflammation known as a cytokine storm.

A cytokine storm is an immune response of inflammatory compounds that often occurs in COVID-19 patients, can lead to complications, need for the intensive care unit, and even death.

A reduction in neutralizing antibodies caused by NSAIDs might be benign, or it might blunt the immune system’s ability to fight the disease during the early stages of infection.

It could also reduce the magnitude and/or length of protection from either natural infection or vaccination.

Therefore, NSAIDs can be beneficial when administered during later stages of COVID-19.

One author of the study is Craig B. Wilen, Assistant Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Immunology.

The study is published in the Journal of Virology.

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