A new study demonstrated how a common, FDA-approved drug could halt lung damage caused by the coronavirus. Researchers at Israel's Hebrew University of Jerusalem and New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center said they slashed the severity of COVID-19 by reducing the ability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to reproduce in lung tissue.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the scientists said the cholesterol-lowering drug, fenofibrate, also known as Tricor, starved the virus from its fat sources until it almost disappeared within five days. The research was performed in lab studies both in New York and Israel and used different samples of lung tissue. The team hopes to replicate their results in animal studies since the drug has already been proven safe.
"By understanding how the SARS-CoV-2 controls our metabolism, we can wrestle back control from the virus and deprive it of the very resources it needs to survive," Hebrew University professor Ya'acov Nahmias said.
"Viruses are parasites," he told The Jerusalem Post. "They cannot replicate themselves. They cannot make new viruses. They have to get inside a human cell and then hijack that cell."
What Nahmias and his colleagues found was the virus stopped lung cells from burning carbohydrates which led to an accumulation of fats. The large amount of fat in lung cells is just what the virus needs to reproduce, the researchers said.
When fenofibrate made the cells burn the excess fat, the virus lost its ability to reproduce and thus died away. According to Pharmaceutical Technology, the scientists said this common cholesterol-lowering drug could "downgrade" the threat level of COVID-19 to that of a common cold.
"The interesting thing about our study is that fenofibrate actually binds and activates the very site on the DNA that the virus shuts down – a part of our DNA that allows our cells to burn fat," Nahmias said. "Virus infection causes the lungs to start building up fat, and fenofibrate allows the cells to burn it."
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