Cholesterol drug found to reduce coronavirus infection by up to 70%, according to new study
A cheap and accessible cholesterol drug was shown to significantly reduce coronavirus infection in human cells and also works against COVID-19 variants, according to researchers in the United Kingdom.
“We need to develop an arsenal of antivirals we can use against COVID,” said Dr. Farhat Khanim, corresponding author of the research and biologist at the University of Birmingham in the U.K.
Fenofibrate, a common drug that helps to reduce cholesterol, could be in that arsenal of antivirals.
Khanim and her team screened several common drugs looking for medications that could stop the coronavirus spike protein from attaching onto human cells and spreading infection.
Fenofibrate reduced COVID-19 infection by up to 70% in the lab using a standard clinical dose.
The drug not only reduced the amount of infected cells, but it also appeared to cause there to be less virus outside of cells, researchers observed. The data shows that the drug may have the potential to reduce the severity of coronavirus as well.
“You want to reduce the amount of virus released out of cells so it can’t go to other cells in the body,” Khanim told the Herald.
If you have a lower amount of virus in the body when infected, the amount of virus released through coughing and sneezing is less, therefore infecting fewer people.
Khanim said additional unpublished data shows fenofibrate is also effective against coronavirus variants including the highly contagious delta variant.
“We do need to do some more studies to look at how it’s doing that, but what we do know is that it does work equally well against all the variants we tested so far,” Khanim said.
Two clinical trials testing fenofibrate are already underway in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
Khanim and her fellow researchers are calling for more clinical trials for the drug, as it could be a game-changer for people who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions, or for residents of countries that do not yet have access to coronavirus vaccines.
Co-corresponding author Dr. Alan Richardson, of Keele University in the U.K., said, “Whilst in some countries vaccination programs are progressing at speed, vaccine uptake rates are variable and for most low middle income countries, significant proportions of the population are unlikely to be vaccinated until 2022.”
The findings of the study were published earlier this week in Frontiers in Pharmacology.