A pair of widely available over-the-counter compounds has been found in preliminary tests to inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19, according to University of Florida health researchers.
The effective ingredients are diphenhydramine, the antihistamine marketed under the label Benadryl, and lactoferrin, the protein found in milk.
Benadryl and milk.
The lead researcher, Dr. David A. Ostrov, cautions that while the early indications are hopeful, human trials have not been conducted. And more importantly, no one should try to treat COVID-19 with their own concoction of lactoferrin and diphenhydramine or Benadryl. The type of lactoferrin used in the research is not the same type that is commonly available to consumers for treating stomach and intestinal ulcers. And Benadryl has other inert ingredients along with diphenhydramine.
Nevertheless, Ostrov’s early testing on monkey cells and human lung cells with a combination of the antihistamine and lactoferrin was found to hinder replication of the dread virus that has stopped the world for the last year, causing lockdowns, mandatory vaccines and a contested election.
Ostrov is an immunologist and associate professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine.
The study was published Nov. 20 in the journal Pathogens.
“We found out why certain drugs are active against the virus that causes COVID-19. Then, we found an antiviral combination that can be effective, economical, and has a long history of safety,” Ostrov said in a University of Florida Health report published by SciTechDaily.
In previous research, Ostrov discovered diphenhydramine was potentially effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He came upon the latest discovery at a meeting of scientists with the Global Virus Network’s COVID-19 task force. A researcher at the meeting presented unpublished data on federally approved compounds that inhibit SARS-CoV-2 activity, including lactoferrin.
Both diphenhydramine and lactoferrin are available without a prescription.
Ostrov began pairing lactoferrin with diphenhydramine in lab tests on human and monkey cells. He found that each compound on their own inhibited SARS-CoV-2 virus replication by about 30%.
But mixed together they reduced virus replication by 99%.
Ostrov hopes the early findings will lead to further study through an academic-corporate partnership for human clinical trials focused on COVID-19 prevention.
He said additional research already is underway in mouse models.
The Florida researchers focused on proteins expressed in human cells known as sigma receptors. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 “hijacks” stress-response machinery, including sigma receptors, to replicate in the body.
The key to inhibiting that replication is to interfere with the signal.
“We now know the detailed mechanism of how certain drugs inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Ostrov said in the University of Florida report.
Scientists from UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, College of Pharmacy and Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency collaborated on the research.
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