Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, humanity has led an arms race against mutations, variants, and extensive contagion, in order to minimize damage to human life and the economy. Currently the battle against the virus relies mainly on RNA-based vaccines, alongside several anti-viral medications.
The Covid virus, however, changes very rapidly, 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. Now, TAU researchers have shown that common dietary supplements can help protect us against the Covid virus as well as several common winter illnesses.
The study was led by Prof. Ehud Gazit, Prof. Eran Bacharach, and Prof. Daniel Segal of The Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research at The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, TAU, together with PhD students Topaz Kreiser and David Zaguri and other researchers. The paper was published in Pharmaceuticals.
Prof. Gazit, who also heads TAU’s BLAVATNIK CENTER for Drug Discovery, said: “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. 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 the consumption of zinc alone achieves a relatively low cellular content. To enhance the effect, they combined the zinc with flavonoids – polyphenolic compounds found in many fruits and vegetables. They also added copper – in order to prevent an ionic imbalance and improve the treatment’s effectiveness.
“The interesting aspect is the treatment’s potential flexibility,” explains Prof. Bacharach. “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.”
Prof. Segal adds: “Advanced lab tests, including PCR, have shown that the new vaccines we developed did, in fact, reduce the viral load. We found a 50-95% 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 shelf treatment.”
So far, all experiments were conducted in vitro in the lab, but the researchers are optimistic as to 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.
The Research Team (left to right): Professors Eran Bacharach, Daniel Segal and Ehud Gazit