Pumpkins and peas are useful for more than turning into Cinderella’s carriage and helping a prince identify a real princess by burying an uncooked pea under a huge stack of mattresses and then ordering the woman to sleep on them.
Safe dietary supplements developed at Tel Aviv University (TAU) could help protect the body against Covid-19 and a variety of winter illnesses. The dietary supplements consist of substances found in fruits and vegetables such as cashew, pumpkin, peas, and beetroot and are considered completely safe.
The study was led by Prof. Ehud Gazit, Prof. Eran Bacharach, and Prof. Daniel Segal of TAU’s Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research and doctoral students Topaz Kreiser and David Zaguri and other researchers. The paper was recently published in the journal Pharmaceuticals under the title “Inhibition of Respiratory RNA Viruses by a Composition of Ionophoric Polyphenols with Metal Ions.”
So far, all experiments were conducted in vitro (outside a living organism) in the lab, but the researchers are optimistic about the study’s practical potential. Soon they hope to launch a series of clinical trials in humans, ultimately leading to an effective treatment accessible to everyone. Since the supplements are verified as safe for use, and in the light of the global pandemic, it was decided to promote the product to the general market before the results of the clinical trials.
According to the World Health Organization, as of the beginning of March 2022, over 433 million COVID-19 cases and more than 5.9 million resulting deaths have been reported worldwide.
Since the outbreak of the deadly pandemic more than two years ago, humanity has led an arms race against mutations, variants, and extensive contagion to minimize harm to human life and the economy. The battle against the virus now relies mainly on RNA-based vaccines, alongside several anti-viral medications. But the new coronavirus changes very quickly, and frequent updates are required to treatments and vaccines that are based on familiarizing the immune system with the virus. The same is true for flu viruses, another widespread cause of illness and death.
“To address the rapid changes of the virus, we decided to develop active vaccines made of safe and easily obtainable dietary supplements that would reduce the viral load in the body and cut down contagion, said Gazit, who heads TAU’s Blavatnik Center for Drug Discovery. “We have known for years that food supplements containing zinc can enhance immunity to severe viral and chronic infections and their potentially grave consequences.”
The researchers found that zinc consumption alone achieves a relatively low cellular content. To enhance the effect, they combined zinc with flavonoids – polyphenolic compounds found in many fruits and vegetables. They also added copper to prevent an ionic imbalance and improve the treatment’s effectiveness.
“Advanced lab tests, including PCR [polymerase chain reaction], have shown that the new vaccines we developed did, in fact, reduce the viral load,” added Segal. “We found a 50% to 95% decrease in the genomic replication of various groups of RNA viruses including Covid-19, the flu virus, and others. These results are very promising, possibly enabling the development of an orally administered biological treatment. Such a product will be safe, natural, and effective against several types of viruses, including new mutations and variants – clearly an important step forward.”
Bacharach concluded that “we are all taught from a young age that good medicine includes preventive medicine. The product that we hope to offer will cover a wide range of winter illnesses, including COVID-19 and the flu. The interesting aspect is the treatment’s potential flexibility. We found that a combination of several flavonoids with zinc helps protect cells against a wide range of RNA viruses. We believe that the product can serve as a supplementary treatment to enhance the effect of existing anti-viral vaccines and medications.”
Ramot, TAU’s technology transfer company, is leading advanced negotiations with a US company to receive a permit for marketing and distributing the product.