Researchers at Hebrew University and New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center are claiming that a widely used anti-cholesterol drug could render COVID-19 no more dangerous than the common cold.
“If our findings are borne out by clinical studies, this course of treatment could potentially downgrade COVID-19’s severity into nothing worse than a common cold,” Hebrew U. Prof. Yaakov Nahmias said in a statement on Tuesday.
Their central finding is that “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, Nahmias said.
“Viruses are parasites that lack the ability to replicate on their own, so they take control of our cells to help accomplish that task. By understanding how the SARS-CoV-2 controls our metabolism, we can wrestle back control from the virus and deprive it from the very resources it needs to survive,” Nahmias explained.
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, according to a press release from Hebrew U. on Tuesday.
Using Fenofibrate, if the trials succeed, could provide an effective solution while international efforts to make a vaccine continue, with no near-term results in sight.
“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,” Nahmias concluded.