In a new study from Scripps Research, researchers found evidence that a compound contained in the medicinal and culinary herb rosemary could be a two-pronged weapon against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
They found that the compound, carnosic acid, can block the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 outer “spike” protein and the receptor protein, ACE2, which the virus uses to gain entry to cells.
The team also found that carnosic acid has a separate effect in inhibiting a powerful inflammatory pathway—a pathway that is active in severe COVID-19 as well as in other diseases including Alzheimer’s.
In 2016, the team showed that carnosic acid activates an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant signaling cascade called the Nrf2 pathway.
They found evidence that it reduces Alzheimer’s-like signs in mouse models of that disease, which is known to feature brain inflammation.
In the new study, they tested this anti-inflammatory effect on the immune cells that drive inflammation in COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s.
The researchers also reviewed evidence from other studies indicating that carnosic acid inhibits inflammation.
They proposed that this effect could be beneficial against the inflammation observed in COVID-19 and in some cases of the post-COVID syndrome known as long COVID, whose reported symptoms include cognitive difficulties often described as “brain fog.”
Additionally, the scientists showed that carnosic acid can directly block SARS-CoV-2’s ability to infect cells, with progressively greater infection-blocking activity at higher doses.
They suggest that carnosic acid has this antiviral effect, despite being a safe and relatively unreactive compound, because it is converted to its active form by the inflammation and oxidation found at sites of infection.
In that active form, they suggest, the compound modifies the ACE2 receptor for SARS-CoV-2—making the receptor impregnable to the virus and thereby blocking infection.
The team will synthesize and test more potent derivatives of carnosic acid with improved drug characteristics for potential use in inflammation-related disorders.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about why COVID-19 can trigger severe disease and death, and inexpensive heart drug that could help treat severe COVID-19.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about common foods that may sharp your brain, and results showing this stuff in the brain can predict memory decline in Alzheimer’s disease.
The study is published in Antioxidants, and was conducted by Stuart Lipton et al.
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